Carers in crisis: 'It’s getting to the stage where I can’t afford to go to work'

  • ITV News Social Affairs Correspondent Sarah Corker reports on the crisis gripping the social care sector

Homecare workers are quitting the industry in increasing numbers due to insecure pay and the rising cost of living, new figures shared exclusively with ITV News reveal.

Vacancy rates in the sector have hit a record high of 13.5%.

A new survey representing thousands of care workers across the UK lifts the lid on the scale of the crisis in homecare.

A total of 96% of workers surveyed by the Homecare Association are receiving no pay, or low pay, while isolating after a positive Covid-19 test.

The Infection Control and Testing Fund (ICTF), an emergency grant, was scrapped in March. As a result, half of those surveyed are now looking for other employment.

Escalating petrol and diesel costs are hitting homecare workers hard as, collectively, they drive more than four million miles per day for work - 90% of workers use their own cars with some getting just 10p per mile.

Debbie drives long distances in her own care every day - something that's not getting any cheaper. Credit: ITV News

Debbie Gibbons is a care giver in Cheshire, visiting people in the community to make meals, help them to get washed and dressed and provide respite care for family members.

It’s a job she loves, but the rising cost of living is making her life much harder.

Everyday she drives long distances across the county using her own car. The mileage rate she is paid isn’t keeping up with surging cost of fuel at the pumps.

"I’m having to cut back on personal things, like going to the gym or the things I enjoy, just so I pay for the petrol for work," she says.

"It’s getting to the stage where I’m thinking, can I even afford to go to work?"

Carers are leaving the industry for better pay and better hours in warehouses, restaurants or shops.

Dr Jane Townson, CEO of the Homecare Association said: "Why is anyone surprised that homecare workers are resigning en masse when their income is insecure and inadequate, they don’t receive full sick pay and cannot afford to put fuel in their cars?"

Dr Townson warned that it was ultimately the old and disabled who would suffer as a result and they are already "experiencing deteriorating health as they are going without support" due to staff shortages.

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Health bosses have warned that a shortage of care available at home or in the community is having a ripple effect through the NHS - beds are blocked in hospitals, discharges are delayed and ambulance wait times grow.

In early April, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead was completely bed blocked with one in one out.

More than 130 patients spent over half an hour waiting in an ambulance outside of the hospital’s accident and emergency department. Around 45 medically fit patients are currently waiting to be discharged, but no suitable care in available.

At Harrogate District Hospital, more than 40 patients who no longer need hospital care can’t be discharged because they do not have a suitable location to continue their recovery.

Problems of bed blocking at hospitals in the Scottish Borders have been a continuing problem.

Saffron Cordery, Chief Executive of NHS Providers, said: "There is an urgent need to bolster capacity across the health and care system. We need more beds not just in hospitals but in mental health and community services too.

"As the number of hospital beds filled remains very high this has a knock-on effect on other services including mental health. Stresses on community care mean that patients can’t be discharged as soon as they could be to be looked after closer to home.

As the recruitment crisis in the care sector deepens, the number of families on the waiting list for community care grows even longer.

Survey responses were received from 292 homecare providers across the UK, representing just over 31,350 care workers supporting nearly 46,200 older and disabled people.