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90,000 care home workers needed now if election pledges to be met

Nuffield Trust analysis looks at reality of party manifesto promises on social care

Caroline White

Friday, 29 November 2019

Up to 90,000 home care workers for the over 65s are needed immediately if the main parties’ manifesto pledges to expand and reform social care are to be met, reveals a new analysis by think tank, the Nuffield Trust.

Its analysis finds that there are around 165,000 over 65s in England who need help at home with three or more basic daily activities like getting dressed, washing and eating, but who aren’t currently receiving it from professionals, family, or friends.

The Nuffield Trust says that expanding social care to this group is implicit in both the Labour party’s pledge for free personal care for over 65s and the Conservative party’s principle to “give every person the dignity and security that they deserve”, despite the lack of concrete proposals in the latter’s manifesto, it points out.

The analysts based their calculations on data from the English Longitudinal Survey of Ageing (2016/17), and the average number of hours of home care that people currently receive and calculated the number of hours a full time worker would need to deliver care for the 165,000 over 65s not currently receiving care.

This revealed that just providing one hour of care a day to this group would require a minimum of 48,000 home care workers, rising to just under 90,000 home care workers for two hours of care a day.

Politicians must urgently put in place plans to expand and retain the care workforce by making drastic improvements to pay, working conditions and training opportunities to make care work an attractive career, says the Nuffield Trust.

And the incoming government must ensure that any future migration system doesn’t restrict social care staff from entering the country to work after Brexit and instead ensures government can actively attract the staff the sector so badly needs, it says.

More help needs to be given to the millions of people who care for friends and family, by promoting policies that support people financially and enable them to balance work with caring for an older or disabled relative, it says.

And a radical overhaul of the way social care is funded is a must to protect people against catastrophic costs and provide a sustainable social care system, concludes the analysis.

Natasha Curry, deputy director of Policy at the Nuffield Trust said: “Despite the extremely disappointing lack of concrete proposals to pay for social care in the Conservative manifesto, it is clear that all parties quite rightly wish to expand the current paltry system. Caring for people who are currently struggling with no support will take time, money and - crucially - thousands more home care workers.”

She continued: “We must be prepared to hire and hold on to much-needed social care workers from home and abroad - and that means being open to so-called ‘low-skilled migration’. Without doing this it will be impossible to expand social care to those who need it.

“Whoever is Prime Minister on 13th December needs to grasp the nettle and put forward clear proposals for funding and staffing social care if thousands of people are not to continue to suffer.”

Commenting on the analysis, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The incoming government is faced with a choice: fix social care with a long-term plan and significant investment, or continue to fail our nation’s most vulnerable people.
“All the main parties have made promises on social care, and this new analysis from the Nuffield Trust shows us the scale of the challenge if those promises are to be kept, and if vulnerable people are not to suffer further.”
He added: “Everyone knows about the staffing crisis in the NHS, but less attention is paid to the social care workforce, where vacancies are even more significant. The incoming government needs to deliver a sustainable social care system, and this must include a new workforce strategy that helps fill the major gaps we have in the supply of care workers.”

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