Disturbing new evidence suggests an increasing number are easily able to find work because the industry is unregulated. It means the vulnerable with complex health needs, many living at home, are wide open to abuse. The shocking findings have prompted the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Care to launch an urgent investigation. It is set to make a host of recommendations to overhaul the broken system within months. Labour MP and co-chair Louise Haigh said: “I hadn’t realised how unqualified some of the workforce looking after our most vulnerable were. “The system that has been created encourages bad employers and creates a huge amount of risk for staff and the people who are being cared for.
“It is inevitable we will have scandal after scandal while we are underfunding, undervaluing and underpaying the system and the workforce. This is a national emergency.”
The APPG, set up to examine the social care system, its funding and staffing, has found a sector in crisis.
It was appalled to learn there is no compulsory register or industry-recognised minimum standard qualification for those tasked with administering life-saving care to seriously ill patients.
Training and development are largely at the discretion of individual providers with some care workers telling how they were expected to look after pensioners with complicated conditions after just two half days of training, which had no first aid.
“There is partial registration of care workers in all devolved nations, but in England, the free-forall has been described as a “recipe for disaster”.
Karolina Gerlich, the chief executive of the professional body the National Association of Care and Support Workers, said: “I have seen care jobs advertised with no legal requirement for registration.
“I have seen people with live-in housekeepers who double up as carers. They have never trained in care and, despite good intentions, lack the skills and knowledge to deliver care well.
“This means that there is a huge potential for abuse. At the moment care workers that do not perform well are able to just move to the next provider. There is no way of tracking or stopping them from working in the industry further.
“The decrease in care quality has been shown to come from understaffing and the workforce being overworked and undertrained. All of these problems can be improved by treating care work as a proper profession and giving care workers the tools other professions receive.”
In evidence to the APPG, MPs were told how the Care Certificate – basic training for social care workers – is open to widespread abuse. The e-learning tool only requires carers to fill in answers that can be easily found online and for completed forms to be countersigned by a care manager.
But the certificate is not accredited, is hardly ever monitored and only half of the 1.5 million care workers, support workers, personal assistants and live-in carers do the training.
Care workers have described a chaotic and unregulated industry in which they are poorly paid and forced to work unmanageable hours, leaving many sick with burnout and stress.
Most are paid between £8 to £13 an hour, similar to those working on a supermarket checkout.
Research found 500,000 jobs in social care were paid below the living wage of £9 an hour.
Meanwhile, one-third of care workers have no dementia training despite it being prevalent in 60 per cent of people receiving home care services.
Reputable care workers demanded parity with other healthcare professionals, who are regulated and supported with training and continuous professional development, which they say would mean a consistent delivery of care, improved standards and staff who feel supported in their jobs.
There have also been urgent calls for the compulsory registration of those working in care homes, home care and supported living, as well as personal assistants and those who support people on direct payments, provide live-in care or are self-employed.
Recommendations under consideration by the APPG include the first national register for care workers with individuals forced to achieve set standards before being able to work.
Skills will be monitored with a digital passport available to all providers as employees move jobs. There are also calls for an independent body to oversee training and professional development with all carers placed on a national database. The APPG will make its recommendations to the Government in September.
Older people’s charity Independent Age said: “We are extremely concerned about the growing challenges facing the social care workforce today in light of our ageing population.
“The overwhelming funding pressures on local government and the difficulties in recruitment and retention of the workforce, the catastrophic costs of care to individuals and their families, and a decline in the quality of care available has created a recipe for disaster.”
GMB union leader Tim Roache said: “Care is in crisis and it needs urgent cross-party action to fix it.”
Shock ‘increase in number of children living in destitution’
A survey of frontline child support workers found more than half of families they deal with are destitute, research claims today, writes Sarah O’Grady.
As many as 54 percent of those households have no permanent home and live without essentials such as food, clothing and heating.
And three quarters of support workers have seen an increase in the number of families living in destitution in the last year.
The charity Buttle UK, which provides grants to needy children, questioned 1,200 frontline child support workers who help vulnerable children living in poverty.
Many of the children have parents who struggle with violence, drink or drug abuse or mental health issues.
But there are rising numbers who live with parents who cannot afford everyday necessities despite working, the report says.
Almost half (49 percent) of staff are often seeing families who work but can’t make ends meet.
CEO of Buttle UK, Joe Howes, said: “Destitution is a shocking word and should have no place in a country which is the fifth wealthiest in the world.”
The Joseph Rowntree Institute defines destitution as when people have lacked two or more essentials over the past month because they couldn’t afford them.
Comment by Louise Haigh MP and Gillian Keegan MP
It is widely acknowledged Britain has a social care crisis. In the past few months, this too often-hidden issue has burst into the mainstream media.
But there is another, far less talked about crisis within this sector; the workforce crisis, and evidence presented to our current All-Party Inquiry into this issue suggests that it is acute, urgent and occurring right across the country.
Nurses and nursing assistants working in our NHS are cherished by the public and courted by the political class but the same cannot be said for their colleagues within care homes and as domiciliary care workers.
Social care has an over 30 per cent turnover rate for very good reasons. Low pay is endemic, travel time is commonly unpaid, sleep in shifts have extremely low rates of pay, training is too often inadequate and the chance of developing skills and a career far too scarce. It is no surprise that on any given day there are 110,000 vacancies in the sector.
What has been made clear to us is that the qualification for care workers to carry out this work – the Care Certificate – is insufficient and open to widespread abuse.
This must be rectified, and we intend to present a range of options to do so.
Other professions centred on looking after health and care require stringent checks, training and mandatory registration.
Routes into social care work are consistently “entry level” and currently require none of these things. Here the question of worker registration materialises.
The higher the quality of the training care workers receive; the more care work will be given the status and respect it deserve
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