During my inaugural speech as president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services at our spring seminar last month, I told delegates that the sustainability of home care was what kept me awake at night.
This was no exaggeration. As our population ages, needs become more complex and funding is squeezed, social services departments’ ability to help people stay in their homes living safe, dignified and enjoyable lives will be stretched up to and likely beyond its limit if action isn’t taken quickly.
My concerns are the workforce and the home care market. Home care staff currently make up 42% of the total care workforce and it will need to expand significantly to cope with rising demand. However, there is a 7.7% vacancy rate, a turnover rate of 30.6%, and almost 30% of the workforce had been in their current post less than 12 months. Approximately 20% of the workforce is aged over 55, which means the sector will face the challenge of a high proportion of staff nearing retirement in the next ten years.
Adass is working with partners to promote adult social care as a good career option and to ensure workers are trained, paid and valued in a way that reflects the quality of service that society expects of them. This is some of the most important work carried out in our society, yet it doesn’t often receive the respect that it deserves. We need to consider whether we need to start a national recruitment campaign to boost the profile of this valuable profession.
The home care market is also very fragile, particularly because of workforce costs. Seventy-four percent of home care providers are planning to reduce services in 2016-17. The national living wage is a welcome boost for low-paid workers and many home care workers will benefit. However, this will put enormous financial pressure on councils, leaving them with a funding gap for adult social care of at least £1bn by 2020. It is vital that social care is properly funded, so that all workers can be paid appropriately; we don’t see a reduction in staffing levels to cope with funding pressures.
We must increase the level of awareness about social care as part of our campaign that will take us to the next spending review. Central to that campaign will be the absolute necessity that social care is properly funded. Awareness of the crucial service provided by home care workers across the country at all times of the day and night is part of this campaign.
Harold Bodmer, president, Adass, and director of adult social services, Norfolk CC