Thank yous and applause not enough to prop up care industry in crisis

The care industry is struggling to retain staff. Credit: PA

The warning from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that desperately needed social care staff are quitting their jobs to work in the tourism and hospitality sector because they are 'burnt out', will come as no surprise to anyone who works in the industry, nor to the many thousands who have been struggling to access it.ITV News have been reporting for months on an unprecedented staffing crisis sweeping through the sector.The levels of alarm are not dissimilar to the panic at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, such is the weight of pressure on both care homes and community care.I have spoken to nursing homes which have had to close due to a lack of staff and to vulnerable people living in their own homes who have had vital care cut back.The recruitment crisis has complex causes. Some are short term - the impact of Brexit, the fatigue of the coronavirus pandemic. But others are symptomatic of far longer term problems - the underpayment of carers, the unsociable hours and the huge emotional toll the work takes.

Credit: PA

The factors have combined to create a 10% vacancy rate in care - almost double the rate that it was in April of this year.In response, the government has promised an extra £162.5 million for recruitment of care staff, on top of the billions it pledged last month to reform the way care is paid for.By my calculation, however, the latest injection of cash equates to just £20 per month per care worker in England. Ironically, that is the amount some of the lowest paid carers lost at the start of this month when the uplift to universal credit came to an end.When hospitality and retail are often paying higher rates, the money is unlikely to dramatically change the calculations of someone considering a career in care.

Care workers are in high demand as the sector struggles with a squeeze. Credit: PA

Longer term, the sector says it requires far more significant investment and radical reform. Some of that may well be contained in a white paper (a law) the government has promised to reveal this autumn. Other eyes are on next week’s spending review.But ultimately what is needed is a complete revaluation of care by all of us. For too long it has been viewed as a secondary service, existing in the shadow of the NHS.Carers were brought out of that shadow during the pandemic when a light was finally shone on their heroic work. But as much as carers appreciate the thank yous they have received, the whole nation needs to put its money where its mouth is if it wants quality care provided by a sufficient quantity of carers.