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Care Provider Says Government Funding ‘An Insult’ – Carers Could Earn More Working in Lidl

Published on: 21 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 24 Dec, 2021

By Julie Armstrong

local democracy reporter

The chief of a Surrey care provider says Government funding is “an insult” as carers could earn more working in Lidl.

And the millions announced by Government this month is just a “sticking plaster” that does not address the growing unmet need in Surrey communities, said Active Prospects chief executive Maria Mills.

Sixty of Active Prospects’ 350 support worker roles are unfilled, as “disenchanted” carers leave the poorly paid adult social care sector amid the spiralling pressure of covering staff shortages.

Active Prospects chief executive Maria Mills

Mrs Mills said: “We’ve never had vacancies over five per cent, now they’re at 17 per cent.”

Active Prospects runs residential services in East Surrey supporting people with learning and physical disabilities and offers mental health support packages. Mrs Mills said they will not be able to provide for new people next year.

“Already you’re seeing people wait 12 months to be assessed for social care,” she said. “Someone in dire need cannot wait 12 months.”

Care staff often need to support people with challenging behaviour and govern multiple daily medications, but Active Prospects is paying £10 an hour, and that is more than many.

Mrs Mills said: ”When I started work over 30 years ago, a support worker could earn the equivalent of £25 to 30,000 in a starting role – now it’s £19,000.

“No way should this job be minimum wage, that’s an insult. If they’re viewed as minimum wage, they’re not valued.

“Only hospital porters and hotel cleaners receive lower salaries.

“They’re being taken advantage of because of their commitment and belief in the impact they can make. What other job can you come back and say, I really enabled that person to have a great life?”

Adult social care employs about 1.5 million people – that’s almost as many workers as the NHS in the UK, but Mrs Mills said it is not treated as an equal.

“Matt Hancock only wore his care badge for one day, he wore his NHS badge every day,” she said.

“When we had ‘clap for carers’, we thought, finally, it’s going to be recognised and there’s going to be some real changes.

“It’s almost like that never happened and we’re back to the same old status quo. People are just very disenchanted.”

Mrs Mills said Brexit had been “a major factor” in the 60 vacancies that have built up over the past nine months.

They worked hard to encourage people to stay but are now finding a “significantly reduced” pool of available staff to recruit from.

She fears they will lose another 10-15 staff when the coronavirus vaccine becomes mandatory for domiciliary care workers in April.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it is providing £300 million in grants to be used by the end of March 2022 in a bid to recruit and retain care staff.

This is on top of £500 million announced in its adult social care reform white paper this month, to support training and qualifications in the workforce.

“The above sums are sticking plasters,” said Mrs Mills.

“£500 million sounds a lot but if you’re talking 1.5 million workers over three years that equates to £2 per person per week. It isn’t going to pay for the National Insurance rise.”

She said it would cost £5,000 to recruit, induct and train new social care staff over their first six months so their share of the £300m will “probably go directly to our staff”.

“It’s certainly nice for them to have but I am not sure it will make a meaningful difference.

“It is widely recognised that the sector needs at least £7 billion of additional money each year to start seriously addressing the key issues.”

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