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Care sector pushed to brink by staffing catastrophe, say UNISON and National Care Forum

UNISON and the National Care Forum (NCF) have written jointly to Sajid Javid today (Thursday) calling for urgent action over the staffing crisis engulfing the care sector.   

The letter to health and social care secretary Sajid Javid says they’ve taken this “unprecedented step” in response to daily reports from care providers and staff of serious worker shortages. 

They say this “recruitment and retention emergency” has been triggered by “chronic underfunding leading to low wages, staff burnout, and mandatory vaccination”.   

It comes ahead of the government’s spending review next week, and amid warnings that social care needs a desperate injection of cash just so care providers can maintain existing levels of service. 

UNISON – the largest union representing employees in social care – and the NCF, the organisation representing not-for-profit care providers, say social care is gripped by a staffing crisis of “a magnitude that threatens to overwhelm the sector” unless the government steps in. 

The letter goes on: “Care providers are already having to hand back contracts, turn down new requests for care, at home and in care homes, as a direct result of the acute shortage of workers. The government must act now because social care matters to us all.    

“This country cannot afford to lose any more care staff. Each and every one of us has a loved one who may well need their skill, support and compassion, or require help themselves eventually. Please don’t ignore this catastrophe a moment longer.”    

Figures from an NCF survey* reveal nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents had seen an increase in staff leaving, and 46% said their employees were leaving the sector completely. This is on top of a pre-existing vacancy rate of 105,000.

Both UNISON and the NCF say what’s needed to avert a disaster is a pay boost for care staff to improve recruitment and reduce the numbers leaving, and a retention bonus for those who have “gone above and beyond in the delivery of care during the darkest of times”.

Both organisations are also calling on the government to scrap – or delay at the very least – the implementation of mandatory jabs in care homes in England. 

In addition, UNISON and the NCF want to see a new dedicated workforce fund to support the wellbeing of existing staff, highlight how valuable they are and persuade them to stay in their social care jobs.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Care employees have been undervalued and ignored for too long. And the escalating staffing crisis is a consequence of this. It’s high time for a decent wage boost for all care workers.

“There’s been much talk but not nearly enough action on funding social care. Without extra government resources, homes will close and domiciliary care be cut back meaning those dependent on support will suffer.”   

NCF chief executive officer Vic Rayner said: “The government must act now to ensure those who currently work in the sector feel valued and recognised by providing a retention bonus alongside this give a clear call to those contemplating working in care that they will be recognised by increasing pay rates for all who work in care.”

Notes to editors: 

  • Survey of NCF membership – snapshot of workforce challenges
  • UNISON is the UK’s largest union with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
  • The National Care Forum brings together over 150 of the UK’s leading social care organisations, representing large numbers of care providers, offering thousands of services across the country, which are not for profit and always at the heart of community provision. Collectively, these organisations deliver more than £2 billion of social care support to more than 167,000 people in 9,200 settings. The NCF membership body collectively employs more than 95,500 colleagues. More information is available on the National Care Forum at www.nationalcareforum.org.uk  @NCFCareForum @vicrayner @NCF_Liz
  • The Department for Health and Social Care provided a Workforce Capacity Fund of £120m from January to March 2021. UNISON and NCF would like to see a new fully flexible fund available to tackle immediate retention and recruitment challenges and support the wellbeing of the workforce.

Media contacts:  
UNISON: Liz Chinchen M: 07778 158175 E: [email protected]  

NCF: Edna Petzen M: 07397 158596 E: [email protected]

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