Social care job vacancies in the UK have hit a record 165,000, including 17,500 in the South West, an increase of 6,100 (53.1%) since 2020/21, which is impacting the care of older people, especially those with dementia, which is often little understood.
Many care workers are not fully qualified. According to Skills For Care, which publishes data about the adult social care sector, only 44% of those employed in the South West have a relevant social care qualification.
The group is urging the Government to prioritise the social care workforce, providing better pay, career progression and mandatory dementia training to ensure people with dementia can live the lives they want to.
With the number of people living with dementia in the UK set to rise to 1.6 million by 2040, from 900,000 today, including 10,060 in Cornwall, the pressures on the social care system are set to grow even further.
Alzheimer’s Society said it was critical to create a workforce now which could deliver the care people with dementia need. Currently people with dementia make up 70% of residents in care homes and 60% of people who access homecare.
The Workforce Matters report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Dementia, chaired by Debbie Abrahams MP and supported by Alzheimer’s Society, calls for a ten-year People Plan to create a social care workforce that is skilled and supported to provide high-quality personalised care for people living with dementia.
A survey of nearly 2,000 people affected by dementia revealed less than half felt care staff had a good understanding of the condition and over a quarter of people didn’t feel involved in the care received.
People interviewed for the report revealed professional carers lack dementia training and can sometimes struggle to deal with more challenging needs; people with dementia are faced with a revolving door of changeable carers, unable to build meaningful relationships; and family members often aren’t consulted about their loved one’s care and feel a lack of control.
Alzheimer’s Society’s survey revealed less than half of people (44%) rated care staff’s understanding of dementia positively.
Kate Lee, Chief Executive Officer at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Providing good social care isn’t just about getting someone up and showered and given their medication. It’s about giving people purpose, dignity and allowing them to have a good quality of life. Sadly, one in four people told us they didn’t feel at all involved in the care they received. My mum has dementia, and I know that personalised care is just so important for her wellbeing.
“We’re going to need 480,000 more social care staff by 2035 to meet growing demand, but we need to make sure they’re actually supported, respected and incentivised to stay. Hardworking care staff desperately want the skills, time and support to do their job well, but they’re over-stretched and under-resourced. The Government have pledged £500m but this is nowhere near enough given the size of the workforce and the scale of change needed, and we’ve heard nothing about the fundamental issue of pay. The average care worker earns just £9.50 an hour, and shockingly 400,000 care staff earn less than the lowest wage paid by major supermarkets.
“Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must prioritise social care. We need to see better pay and career progression, mandatory training in dementia and an audit of the current workforce knowledge and skills. A People Plan is the only way to build a better system for people with dementia, their families and hardworking care staff.”
The call to reform the social care workforce comes after 26,000 Alzheimer’s Society campaigners signed the charity’s open letter to the Prime Minister, due to be handed in shortly, with ambassador Vicky McClure’s heartfelt plea to her social media followers raising signatures by over 8,000.
The charity has also expressed concern over reports that Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is looking to delay the Government’s flagship social care reform which would introduce a cap on care costs, leaving many families vulnerable to high costs.
The full report can be viewed at alzheimers.org.uk/workforcematters
Sign Alzheimer’s Society’s open letter to the Prime Minister to urge the Government to prioritise dementia here.