Campaigners say a Government decision to deny overseas care workers a visa to work in Britain has robbed the social care sector of vital staff to look after older and vulnerable people.
The Independent Care Group (ICG) said the Government had ignored the vital role social care staff played and the recruitment crisis the sector is facing.
ICG Chair Mike Padgham said: “In the last few months social care has demonstrated the vital role it plays in caring for people in this country. But that has been ignored in today’s announcement.
“In granting this visa to NHS workers but not to social care workers the Government has again demonstrated how it treats social care as the poor relation. We hoped that might have changed but clearly it hasn’t.
“For the Government to say that people already here can remain and provide “really important care to the elderly and the vulnerable” but then say no more can come, beggars belief.
“This hastens the need to merge the two together so that both can be treated equally.”
Around 1.6m people work in social care, but estimates suggest that the country will need an extra 650,000 by 2035, to cope with demand.
The ICG says there are currently more than 100,000 care vacancies on any one day. It warns that demand will outstrip supply very soon.
According to Skills for Care, some 115,000 EU nationals work in care and 134,000 people from outside the EU.
“If we cannot recruit from within and outside the EU, then where are the people to fill the vacancies and meet future demand going to come from,” Mr Padgham added.
“This has not been thought through and is another kick in the teeth for social care.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, calls out for more Government support:
“Ultimately, we are only as healthy as our most vulnerable. The care sector must be adequately supported given that it is, and continues to be, the frontline of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The Covid-19 pandemic has posed an array of unprecedented challenges to the adult social care sector. As we now move into ‘the new normal’ we must take account of these issues and reflect on what we have learned collectively in order to safeguard against the implications of a second wave of the virus.
It is vital to ensure that the policy mistakes made at the start of this crisis are not repeated; we cannot go back to a situation where political actors are unreactive to the needs of the independent adult social care sector. The next few months will continue to be difficult for care providers, with situation-specific, person-specific decision-making in a kaleidoscopically changing environment of relative risk. Emerging systems to manage the virus have been put in place as a result of the change Covid-19 has demanded. This impetus for change needs to be harnessed, not forgotten in order to facilitate a fully integrated health and social care system.
Martin Green continues:
“The Government cannot again invest vast amounts of its organisational capacity into the NHS whilst neglecting adequate consideration of the adult social care sector. Nor should care providers ever be pressurised to admit untested individuals in order to preserve the structural integrity of the NHS. What is required now is a different culture, one where success is measured in outcomes”.
Meanwhile, Care England, has welcomed calls from the Relatives and Residents Association for free PPE for the adult social care sector as a raison d’etre of public health.
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, continued;
“Public health protection for care services must come out of the public purse, in the same way as other communicable disease prevention measures. Procuring and delivering sufficient PPE to the front line is critical to future management of this pandemic”.
Public Protection – Who Pays? is available via the Relatives and Residents Association https://www.relres.org/ The report makes it clear that we need a renewed, better organised and effective public health response in preparation for a second wave, with centralised purchasing of PPE managed by local public health agencies to ensure effective distribution.
Care England will be publishing a report this morning on care homes; second wave and beyond. Rt Hon Stephen Dorrell will be guest of honour at a webinar to launch the report.
Judy Downey, Chair of Relatives and Residents, says:
“The care sector cannot continue to be treated as collateral damage or its staff and services as second class citizens. Government agencies still appear unaware both of the role and scale of the care sector with at least three times the number of beds, a workforce larger than the NHS and an intrinsically at risk population. We have paid and are paying a high price for this ignorance”.