A severe shortage of care workers could put elderly and vulnerable people at risk, warns Council

Posted on: 22 November 2018

Care providers across Devon are currently short of over 150 home care workers and with demand for support rising the Council is warning it is getting more and more difficult to arrange the right personal care packages for everyone in the county that needs one.

Devon County Council and its social care partners who provide personal care to the elderly and most vulnerable across the county are working flat out to help people stay safe and well at home this winter, and to help those in hospital get back home again swiftly and safely with all the support and care they need when they are discharged.

But the Council is warning that a growing number of people needing support coupled with a shortage of care workers is putting severe pressure on Devon’s health and care system this winter.

Care providers across Devon are currently reporting over 150 job vacancies, with particular problems with recruitment in Exeter and South Devon, making it increasingly difficult for the Council to arrange the right personal support and home care packages for everyone who needs them.

Demand for care and support in people’s homes is already at an unprecedented level for the time of year and with winter around the corner, there are concerns that demand for care packages will rise further to outstrip supply leaving the health and social care system struggling to cope.

“This is not about money,” says Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, the Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for adult social care, “it’s about being unable to attract and retain enough care workers to deal with growing demand,”

“This is a huge regional and national issue, but Devon’s problem is more acute because of the higher than normal level of demand for social care we are already experiencing, and this will only rise over the winter.

“Our care providers and care workers are working flat out and doing a fantastic job and no-one want to see a single person in hospital for a moment longer than they need to be, but staff shortages are putting a real strain on the system and could put elderly and vulnerable people at risk.

“With almost full employment in the county, care providers are finding it increasingly difficult to attract care workers in sufficient numbers. Unless we change this, it will become more and more difficult for us to provide the level of personal care and support we need and want to.”

Personal care workers provide a vital lifeline for people in need of support at home as well as those needing a little extra help whilst they regain their independence after a spell in hospital.

The County Council has been working closely with local care providers to boost recruitment including through its nationally acclaimed Proud to Care campaign which has been adopted across the South west region.

It has increased the rates they pay home care providers and negotiated guaranteed working hours and payment for travel time for care workers.

Additional money has also been put in to boost the pay, conditions and training for frontline care workers and to try to put an end to the perception that care jobs are low paid and low status.

It is also trying to improve the wider public perception of care as a potential career option – encouraging people to see it as being worthwhile, highly valued, and with good prospects for progression; and is working with schools and colleges to encourage more students to take up courses in social care.

As a result, large numbers have joined the workforce but this is still outstripped by people leaving the profession and ever growing demand.

The Council is now calling on its communities to help and is asking local town and parish councils, community and voluntary groups and local volunteers within communities to help them spread the word.

They’re asking communities to help them raise awareness of the shortage of home care workers in their local area. And to help signpost people to the Council’s Proud to Care Devon campaign, set up to encourage more people to work in the care sector.

“We have been doing all we can to make sure working in care is more attractive, with decent pay and conditions, and that care workers feel valued”, says Cllr Leadbetter.

“We are working hard with our providers to promote vacancies and attract more people into caring roles through our Proud to Care campaign and jobs website.

“But we are also now asking Devon’s communities for support to spread the word. Ultimately, it is only if people in our own towns and villages come forward to fill care worker vacancies that we will ever be able to meet the needs of people who are our neighbours, friends and families.

To find out more about Proud to Care Devon, and for information about the care jobs currently available visit the Proud to Care Devon website, www.proudtocaredevon.org.uk

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