Social care career reforms ‘only scratch the surface’

By William Eichler | 10 January 2024

The Government today announced new measures to improve the career prospects of social care staff, but concerns remain that this ‘may only scratch the surface’ of the workforce crisis.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a national career structure for the adult social care workforce – called the Care Workforce Pathway – and a new adult social care qualification backed by £50m of funding.

Under the new measures, local authorities and adult social care providers will be able to draw on £20m of funding to train and supervise new social work and nurse apprentices, according to the DHSC.

Minister for Social Care, Helen Whately, said: ‘The workforce is the heartbeat of the social care sector and staff should be given the recognition and opportunities they deserve. These changes will give brilliant care workers the chance to develop rewarding careers in social care.’

Skills for Care chief executive, Oonagh Smyth, said: ‘The announcement from DHSC about their plans for a workforce reform package is welcome as it includes the first version of the Care Workforce Pathway and the introduction of the Care Certificate Qualification, which are both projects which Skills for Care has consulted and supported on with the sector.’

She continued: ‘Both initiatives will encourage learning and development opportunities for people working in different care services as well as supporting with the recruitment and retention challenges which we know employers are continuing to face.’

According to data on the adult social care workforce in England published in October last year by Skills for Care, there are 152,000 vacant posts in the sector.

Care England, the largest representative body of independent providers of adult social care in England, welcomed the announcement, but warned it ‘may only scratch the surface of what is required to resolve the recruitment and retention challenges’.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: ‘We know career structures and pathways play a key role in attracting and keeping people in adult social care roles. But these are not the only factors. This package of support must be the precedent the Government sets for the year.’

UNISON head of social care Gavin Edwards said a national career structure for care workers and recognised qualifications were ‘long overdue’.

He also urged the Government to go a lot further to reform the social care sector.

‘Any attempt to fix the social care staffing crisis will be fatally undermined unless the Government delivers the investment and reform that’s desperately needed. Otherwise, it’s like putting a shiny new wing mirror on a car with a broken engine.’

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