Almost one in two councils (48%) is unable to provide care for everyone who requests it at the first point of asking, according to research conducted by Prestige Nursing + Care.
Freedom of Information requests submitted to 103 UK councils for the period 1st – 31st January 2015 reveal almost half of Councils were unable to find a care provider to cover all care requests. The number of unfilled hours ranged from 21 hours to 4,124 over the month.
The average number of hours not placed at the first point of asking across all councils was 582 per month – equivalent to the hours worked by five additional care workers*. When assessing just those councils where not all care was immediately placed, this rose to an average of 1,221 hours per month, equivalent to 10 extra care workers.
Projected across all 433 UK principle authorities, this equates to 2,165 extra carers that are urgently needed, rising to 4,330 among those councils where not all care was immediately placed. Since 2010 social budgets have been squeezed to the effect that now only the most acute levels of care are provided for by local authorities, highlighting the severity of the situation**. This is clearly a critical national issue, yet Labour is the only party to directly pledge recruiting more care workers as political parties fail to tackle the issue head on in the run up to the election***.
- Councils have average of 582 unfilled care hours/month
- 2,165 new carers urgently needed to meet demand but Labour only party to pledge to recruit new carers
- Scottish councils worst affected
Ageing population already takes its toll – set to worsen over the next decade
Separate analysis of ONS data found that the over 65 population in the UK is projected to have grown by 23% in 2015 to almost 11 million, and rising by 49% in 2035.
If the care gap grows at the same rate as the over 65s population (23%) this would mean that by 2025 the average council would be unable to fill 716 hours of care a month, equal to a shortage of more than 310,000 hours UK wide, equivalent to the work carried out by 2,558 care workers.
Considering population growth among the over 75s – the age at which the need for care is likely to increase – this demographic is predicted to increase by 37% to 7.3 million in 2025 when the care gap would be equal to more than 2,849 care workers.
In contrast, the number of carers has risen by an average of just 0.2% a year between 2012 and 2014. As a result, the ratio of over 65s to care workers has risen from 10.4 in 2010 to 12.2 now. If current trends continue, the ratio is projected to reach 14.2 older people to each carer by 2025 – a rise of 41% from 2010.
Regional variations – Scotland particularly hard hit
In Scotland – where care for the elderly is guaranteed but a shortage of workers is critical – 50% of the councils surveyed were unable to provide care for everyone who needs it. The number of unfilled hours ranged from 284 hours to 3,525 hours.
The average number of hours not placed at the first point of asking in Scotland is 645 hours, equivalent to 5 care workers. This rises to an average of 1,290 hours among just those councils who were unable to provide care – equivalent to 11 care workers (and above the UK average of 10).
Across the UK, 1.4% hours were unfilled compared to the total number of hours requested. In Scotland this rises to 1.7%. Edinburgh in particular – an affluent area where the industry struggles to recruit and retain care workers – is overstretched with 35% hours of care requested unfilled in January.
Other areas that particularly struggle to meet demand for care are Northamptonshire (where 36% of the total hours requested were unfilled), Suffolk (24%), Windsor (21%) and Devon (16%). In these regions the local demographics are likely to have an effect; an older and wealthy population as well as increased competition among the younger workforce all mean that recruitment and retention of care workers is a challenge.
Jonathan Bruce, managing director of Prestige Nursing + Care commented on the findings,
“There is a clear shortage of carers with councils unable to find providers to cover requested care, something that will only increase as the number of older people in the UK continues to soar, and the number of people requiring care rises. Under the coalition cuts to council budgets have meant it is now only the most serious cases that qualify for council care. Yet even those in urgent need are in danger of not receiving the care they need.
“In light of this, it is alarming that only one of the major political parties has set out a clear aim to recruit more care workers and even then it is not clear how this will be delivered. Care and an ageing population should be a key issue policy for the outcome of the looming election, yet the contenders have failed to address one of the key challenges.
“Care workers choose their profession in order to help people, and although care and nursing was recently voted the most fulfilling sector to work in****, a key reason for the difficulties in recruiting staff is the demanding nature of the job and relatively low pay, impacted by a lack of government funding. There are going to be extraordinary demands on our care services in the years to come and we need action now on providing adequate reward and strong career prospects to those we need so desperately to join the profession.”