The ‘crisis’ facing Devon’s social care sector with thousands of unfilled jobs

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A social care provider in North Devon is facing a recruitment "crisis" as the county struggles to fill thousands of vacancies.

There are approximately the same number of people working in social care in Devon as there are working in the NHS - around 30,000 - but many feel the two are not prioritised in the same way.

Devon itself is short of 2,000 staff in social care and Devon County Council says the current workforce is not large enough to meet demand.

Northam Care Trust in Bideford employs over 250 people, providing a range of adult social care services including supported living and domiciliary care. It currently has 30 vacancies.

Since last summer, staff at Northam Care Trust says they have had a drip feed of new staff but not in the numbers they need.

Dr Len Lofts says if 50 people applied for a job tomorrow they would probably employ them all.

Chief Executive Dr Len Lofts says if 50 people applied for a job tomorrow they would probably employ them all.

"There's still a crisis," he said. "We've worked really hard with Devon County Council. They have had a recent appreciative inquiry, which is all about improving the lot of social care and stuff coming into it.

"Recruitment has been really hard. I think the government needs to value social care. They have to say 'it's just as important as the NHS, come and work in it'."

The council said it is the most serious situation the social care sector in Devon has ever faced.

Last year, 17 per cent of all job vacancies in Devon were for roles in adult social care.

Georgina Heath, Domiciliary Care service manager at Northam Care Trust, said working in the social care sector is the most rewarding job out there.

"I love my job and I couldn't imagine doing anything else and my staff all feel the exact same way", she told ITV News.

"We've got quite a lot of staff that are new to care, and they say they wish they did it sooner.

Georgina Heath says working in the care sector is the most rewarding job you could find.

"You go home with a good feeling and you feel like you've made a difference. The more staff we can get, the more clients we can support and the more people we can keep out of hospital beds. So it's really kind of crucial at this moment."

It is a problem being felt right across the West Country - last week a care provider in Cornwall announced plans to close three homes because of recruitment difficulties among other problems.

Fiona White, HR manager at Northam Care Trust, said the staffing issue has a knock-on effect on the quality of care staff are able to provide.

"We can manage with the staff that we've got, we can provide the care, but it's all those other things," she said.

"If you've got a fully staffed team, you can take people out, they can do more. You can spend more one to one time with clients."