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Social care system can’t carry on as a ‘Cinderella service’, NAO warns

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By Angela Sharda
8 February 2018

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Social care cannot ‘carry on as a Cinderella service’ where low wages and recruitment problems make it challenging to meet the needs of vulnerable people, a watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office  (NAO) report  warned that the government  ‘is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce’.

Social care cannot ‘carry on as a Cinderella service’ where low wages and recruitment problems make it challenging to meet the needs of vulnerable people, a watchdog has warned.

The National Audit Office  (NAO) report  warned that the government  ‘is not doing enough to support a sustainable social care workforce’.

Its report into the adult social care workforce in England found that staff felt undervalued and there were little opportunities of career progression.

The head of the NAO Sir Amyas Morse warned: ‘Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.’

He added: 'Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the Department  (of Health and Social Care) needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.’

An estimated 1.34m people worked in adult social care in 2016-17 and there was a 27% turnover rate, with 6.6%  of posts unfilled. There was an  especially high turnover and vacancies of registered nurses and care workers, the NAO found.

Many staff were low paid, with care workers taking home £7.50 an hour.

The highest number of vacancies were in management – with 11.3% of posts vacant in 2016-17.

Local authorities told NAO researchers they were ‘reticent’ in using the extra £2b Better Care Fund grant handed out in 2016-17 to increase the fees they pay providers as they assume it is a ‘one-off’.

The NAO warned that four fifth of local authorities are paying providers ‘fees that are below the benchmark costs of care’.

Local authorities spend £16.8b on social care – 5.3% less than they did in 2010-11 but the NAO warned this is likely to fall over the over the next two years with further government cuts.

It said DHSC ‘cannot demonstrate that the sector is sustainably funded, which impacts workforce planning’.

There is no national strategy to cope with the workforce challenge and DHSC also failed to follow through commitments to enhance training and career development.

The NAO said DHSC also needed to oversee workforce planning by local authorities and local health and care partnerships.

‘Without a national strategy to align to, few local areas have detailed plans for sustaining the care workforce,’ it said.

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