Care leaders have slammed the £162.5 million cash injection into the social care workforce as a “drop in the ocean”.
Ahead of a damning report highlighting the “exhausted and depleted” care workforce, the Government has announced ring-fenced funding to support the care workforce.
Local authorities will use the money to work with providers to recruit staff, and retain the existing workforce – through overtime payments and staff banks, and occupational health.
However, Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the National Care Forum (NCF) said: “[Funding] is a drop in the ocean of what is really needed to address these challenges. The stark messages that we have been giving for several months now [are] the urgent need for action to support the workforce with a retention bonus and an immediate pay increase, along with care workers being included in the Shortage Occupation List.”
The workforce retention and recruitment fund was announced by the Government just hours before care regulators for England warned of an exhausted and depleted care workforce, in the annual State of Care report.
The CQC report concludes: “The negative impact of working under this sustained pressure, including anxiety, stress and burnout, cannot be underestimated.”
In June 2021, a report by the Samaritans identified healthcare workers as one of five groups whose suicide risk may be exacerbated as a result of the pandemic. The report described how healthcare workers have struggled with feelings of anxiety, trauma and mental fatigue from their work during the pandemic, alongside the impact of being surrounded by serious illness and death at unprecedented levels, while often struggling for support and resources.
Staff sickness rates were up in adult social care last year – pre-pandemic sickness rates for adult social care staff were 2.6 per cent, whereas these almost doubled to 5 per cent between March 2020 and June 2021.
The crisis has also brought to light and exacerbated longstanding problems, including excessive work pressures and staffing challenges. Inspectors, however, also found initiatives to support the mental health and wellbeing of staff during the pandemic, including:
- dedicated wellbeing spaces that provide a calming environment for staff
- informal catchup calls and team meetings such as ‘sharing cuppas’ and one-to-ones with a wellbeing focus
- access to professional help such as employee assistance programmes and counselling
- mental health trusts facilitating access to counselling or other psychological therapies for NHS colleagues.
The CQC report also highlights the increased care challenges facing people with a learning disability as a result of the pandemic. However, it also acknowledges that when people were able to access the care they needed, they were often positive about that care.
“The faults we find are not usually one-off mistakes – they are more frequently being caused by measures taken to balance the books in a system under immense funding pressures. It is not the staff, but the pressure that is the problem.”