Blog: The dithering must end – investment in social care is needed now

Picture of UNISON flags

A recent report from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass) has confirmed what we have been saying for quite some time, that the situation in social care is rapidly deteriorating.

We need to address the critical shortage of staff working in the care sector who look after our loved ones. The report states “in the last quarter 3,694 people could not move into their chosen residential or nursing home because of staffing constraints.”

This is unacceptable and is another deafening alarm bell about staffing shortages in the care sector which the government has to hear.

A recent UNISON survey said nearly a third of care staff say staffing levels are dangerously low, getting worse and negatively affecting the care provided. The survey revealed some dying residents are being denied a dignified end to their lives. This is because there are not enough staff to sit with them in their final hours.

More shocking consequences of the staffing crisis highlighted by the survey includes people being left in dirty sheets, denied regular baths or showers, and not helped to dress until the afternoon.

Other findings from the survey include two thirds of staff saying they are thinking of leaving social care. This is a disastrous but inevitable consequence of poverty wages, low morale and years of chronic underfunding.

Care workers who took part in the survey were asked to choose a statement that best described the situation where they worked. Nearly half said staffing shortages are having a negative impact on the care provided and 31% that staffing levels are dangerously low, getting worse and having a negative impact on the care provided.

Ministers can’t keep wringing their hands hoping this will go away. A human tragedy is unfolding, with care workers describing the heart-breaking impact workforce shortages are having on the vulnerable and elderly.

Unions, employers and politicians of all parties have been urging immediate action on pay in social care, but month after month nothing happens.

The dithering must end. Care workers, the people they look after and their families want one thing from government, right now. Additional money to be invested in a pay boost for care workers to begin to bring the situation under control.

So what do we want to see change? UNISON is calling for a real living wage for all care workers with a standard contract of employment which includes sick pay, contracted hours and pay for all hours on duty, including sleep ins. Upgrade and expand the Care Certificate  to include professional registration and standardised throughout the UK. A Social care forum made up of commissioners, providers, governments and trade unions to action solutions.