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21 Sep 2020

Ed Griffin

Ed Griffin, Director of HR Consultancy and Research

Last week we published a report with the Health Foundation on the potential impact of government Covid-19 policy on the adult social care workforce. We’ve subsequently seen the announcement of an extra £546 million of funding to care homes, followed by an announcement that PPE will be provided free to care homes until March next year.

Whilst it’s positive news to see more funding for adult social care and the recognition of the importance of care homes having sufficient supplies of PPE, these announcements reinforce some of our key findings. We believe that understanding these issues and challenges is vital if a strategy for adult social care is to be developed and delivered.

In summary we found:

■     Adult social care is delivered in vastly different ways from large corporates to individuals going in every day to help a neighbour.

■     The complexity of the sector in how it is owned and delivered creates a massive challenge in properly funding and supporting it.

■     Whilst much of adult social care is delivered by domiciliary carers, much of the funding and support is focused on care homes. There is a challenge in getting support and advice to many of those providing care individually, such as family members or those going in each day to support a neighbour.

■     For adult social care, much of the support has been channelled through local authorities with no consistency in how that is locally managed and delivered.

■     Many of those working in adult social care are low paid and on zero-hours contracts. This can create a vulnerability and additional stress for the individual. If a low paid worker had to go onto Statutory Sick Pay due to testing positive for coronavirus or self-isolating, they were likely to suffer serious financial impact.

■     The difficulties of accessing testing may have meant some workers were not tested when needed and created risk to those they cared for.

One positive that has come from the pandemic has been a growing public appreciation of the importance of those providing adult social care and the challenges they face. This is a workforce that has previously been characterised as doing low paid and low skilled work with high turnover, rather than respected for the key workers they are. If you were looking at adult social care as a single employer, then the kind of questions that you might start to explore from an HR perspective could be:

■     What are the jobs we need?

■     Who do we need and where?

■     How do we make this attractive and how do we increase retention?

■     How will we manage, develop and support our people?

■     What resources will they need?

■     What do we need to do next to make this happen?

■     What governance do we need?

Being able to answer questions specific to adult social care in England seems a very long way off right now. However, the pandemic has further exposed the parlous state of adult social care and the risks and impacts for those working in the sector. Our work with the Health Foundation has shown just some of the challenges faced by workers, particularly in recent months. Many of these require urgent action and some of the new polices have the potential to make a difference, but it feels like there’s a real urgency now to make greater changes.

Whilst it’s possible that there’s never a good time to develop a strategy, without one for adult social care we continue to see a completely reactive approach. With such a fragmented sector and so many employers, it’s hard to imagine developing a cohesive workforce strategy for adult social care.  Workforce strategies exist at a regional level but as with the NHS, adult social care needs an overarching workforce strategy and a workforce plan, ensuring that we can build, develop and support the workers providing this critical service.

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Any views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Institute as a whole.