Analysis by the national social care charity, Skills for Care, shows that the shortage of care workers in England is now greater than it was before the coronavirus pandemic, and the situation is getting worse.
It’s leaving care providers everywhere struggling desperately to find enough staff to provide care to vulnerable people.
Many are having to turn down requests to help new people, and juggling rotas and home visits while doing the very best they can to care for their vulnerable clients.
In Devon, a county known for having one of the highest proportions of older people among its population, the need for more care workers is beyond urgent.
The county needs around 2,000 additional care workers right now to fill growing numbers of vacancies. And demand for care is rising.
Councillor James McInnes, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for adult social care, said
“We saw a good number of people move into social care early in the pandemic, as their previous careers came to a halt or they wanted a change.
“But with restrictions lifted, and all sectors of the economy opening up again, we’re seeing that drift back into retail, hospitality and other sectors.
“Add Brexit to that, and the whole issue of recruitment right now across all sectors is extremely competitive.
“It means that people whose health has deteriorated and who are now needing help at home, are finding it very difficult to find care.
“And people already getting help from a care worker are seeing changes to their visits, simply because their care providers have to respond to higher demand without the additional staff they need.
“For us at Devon County Council, it means quite honestly, we’re finding it extremely difficult to match vulnerable people to the care they need.”
But the problem in Devon is even more acute than that.
It’s not just adult social care where the county is seeing particular need right now.
“There are more people in Devon today who quite simply need help – just help – than there are people to provide it,” says James McInnes.
“I’m not talking about help with personal care or other aspects of social care, I’m talking about plain and simple help.
“I’m talking about help with shopping, help to pick up prescriptions, help to prepare a meal, company because they’re lonely.
“Good neighbours, good friends, good people in the community who are happy to go out of their way a bit to look out for someone else. The county needs more people like that, and I’d urge us all to consider our own part in that.”
Alongside registered care providers, there’s another layer of help and care that Devon is short of.
Personal Assistants – people who visit others at home who need help. They often work for themselves, and they’re paid by the person they’re helping.
“We also need more Personal Assistants in Devon,” says Cllr McInnes.
“The help they’re providing gives greater choice to people who need care and support at home and who want to arrange that for themselves. This may be for skilled personal care or a wider range of help. The more options that people have to meet their needs, the better it will be.
“So my clarion call today is to ask the Devon public to do two things:
“Firstly, to know that there is a challenge in Devon right now and that there are people who they will know who need care and support.
“And secondly, to ask themselves what they can do about it, and to act on it.
“We are a county of well meaning, often kind-hearted and generous people. When we’ve needed to come together and look out for friends and family, as we did at the outbreak of coronavirus, we generally have.
“Now is the time to do that again.
“If you have experience of caring for a relative or have previously worked in care, or if you are keen to work in a new and rewarding field, now is the time. We want to hear from you. We can give you one to one support to help you find the role that suits you best. And we have free training to help you do that.
“If you can be a Personal Assistant, working for yourself and helping people in your community, now is the time. We can help with advice and guidance on how to do that.
“If you have time and the energy, simply to volunteer to help people in your local community – to sit with someone while their caring wife or husband has a break, or just to talk to someone who doesn’t have anyone else to talk to, or to pick up a bit of shopping from time to time – now is the time.”
If you are interested in exploring career opportunities in social care, Proud to Care Devon is calling for people who are interested to complete an online form at devon.cc/findyourcalling. Applicants will get a call back and the offer of free one-to-one telephone support, providing careers advice and information about jobs and training in care and health.
If you can be a Personal Assistant, you can find more information, and list yourself by visiting devon.cc/pa-pinpoint.
If you have time to spare and can volunteer to help in your community visit Devon’s ‘Show you Care’ website devon.cc/care or get in touch with your local community group.