Richmond and Wandsworth are facing a critical demand for new care workers, as the sector is hit by a shortfall of 500,000 workers across the UK – fuelled by issues relating to Covid19, Brexit and false stigmas.
The councils praised the work of the ‘unsung heroes’ of the Covid19 pandemic as they tackle welfare concerns from potential workers.
Currently, Richmond’s care work is spread across five providers: Haven Care, Absolute Care Services, Holistic Care, Alpenbest Care and Medacs Healthcare. A consortium of these organisations (along with Wandsworth’s listed later) stressed the urgent need for greater awareness of the vital role of care workers, labelling the shortfall ‘a crisis’ and ‘the greatest care worker shortage to date’.
’These providers are targeting the 17.2% of working aged people who are currently unemployed in Richmond, touting the benefits of the sector’s competitive pay, flexible hours, and the ability to work in the sector even if you are furloughed.
The pandemic has caused home care workers — many of whom are women of colour — to find their roles stretched. A recent report by the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) showed there are about 1.5 million care workers across the UK, but UKCES said increasing demand will require an additional 500,000 workers by 2022. UKCES said that the expected growth in the care sector’s workforce, which is at 27%, is the biggest in any industry.
The report also said that there is a pressing need for the care industry to hire more young workers as the mean age of care staff today is 50 to 65 years old and many care workers are expected to retire in the next 15 years.
Liz Bruce, Director of Adult Social Care and Public Health, said: “Care workers provide vital work that the country relies on. By deciding to become a care worker, you will be helping people every day and making an important difference to their lives. It is rewarding and varied work which develops a strong set of career skills. The past year has shown us that care workers are heroes, and all care workers should be immensely proud of the work they do. We need dedicated care workers to ensure older and disabled people have a good quality of life – so, if helping people is something you could see yourself making a career out of, apply today!”
Fears over worker safety have also been eased. 60% of adults have now had a first dose of the Covid19 vaccine, while 10.4% have had both shots. Extra precautions are also in place to protect care workers, including safety guidelines and access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Over the next 5-10 years, this is likely to lead to an increase in over-75s, and with that, a higher demand on care services. Currently, 13.5% of the population of Richmond are aged 65+, and there has been huge proportionate increases in the number of people aged 60-64 (up 49.4%) and 65-69 (up 26.6%). Meanwhile, there are around 1,500 people aged 90+ (up 27.2%) which equates to 5% more than the England average.
Meanwhile, some post-Brexit safeguards have been put in place to streamline the flow of workers from outside the UK. Several caring roles have been added to the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) – meaning workers with those skills can apply for a visa to come to the UK even if they earn less than the minimum salary threshold of £25,600.
Home care workers have always been essential, but the pandemic has made clear just how vital the profession is for protecting clients.
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