Adult social care run as ‘Cinderella service’

Social care in England is running as a “Cinderella service”which is undervalued, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

The Department of Health and Social Care is not doing enough to support the development of a sustainable workforce, a new report into England’s adult social care sector found.

There is a growing demand for care but not enough staff and the number of people with unmet needs is increasing, it added.

Recruiting and retaining staff is increasingly difficult, but the department does not have a current workforce strategy, the authors said.

The report looked at Age UK analysis which estimated 12 million people over the age of 65 had some level of unmet care needs in 2016/17.

There is also a higher than national average vacancy rate and a growing staff turnover rate.

The NAO said workers feel undervalued and there is little opportunity for career progression.

In England there are about 1.34 million adult social care jobs, with about half of care workers paid £7.50 an hour last year – the national minimum wage.

The authors said: “The one and a half million people working in adult social care in England provide essential support to adults with care needs, yet the care sector is undervalued and its workers poorly rewarded.”

Social care workers are underpaid, the report said

Image: Social care workers are underpaid, the report said

The NAO recommended a national workforce strategy be produced and investment made to enable providers to pay staff adequately and to offer career development and training opportunities.

“Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society,” Amyas Morse, NAO head said.

“Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “This report is a damning indictment of the failure of successive governments to carry out workforce planning and the end result is the dangerously fragile situation we see today – one that means that in some parts of the country there are not enough care staff to give older people the support they need, even if they are willing and able to pay top rates for it.

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Everyone is entitled to good quality care and we recognise there are challenges – that’s why we will shortly publish a health and care workforce strategy to address these issues.

“We’ve provided an extra £2bn funding to the sector and this week announced a further £150m for next year – in the summer we will outline plans to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”