NAO: Government ‘cannot demonstrate’ care sector is sustainable

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The Department of Health & Social Care must respond quickly to address high vacancy rates and bolster the workforce in social care services to meet growing demand, the National Audit Office has said.

In a report published today, the NAO concluded that the DHSC “cannot demonstrate the social care sector is sustainably funded” and has no national strategy to deal with workforce pressures.

It said about half of care workers in England were paid £7.50 an hour or below in 2016-17, when the national living wage was £7.20.

The report adds there is widespread agreement that care workers feel undervalued, with limited career opportunities compared to similar roles in the NHS.

It concludes these factors, and difficult working conditions and poor public perception, prevents people from taking jobs in the sector.

The report said there are around 1.34 million jobs in the adult social care sector, across more than 20,300 organisations.

The rate of staff turnover was found to have increased since 2012-13 to 27.8% in 2016-17, with a vacancy rate of 6.6%. The national average is 2.5%-2.7%.

DHSC has estimated the social care workforce will need to increase by 2.6% a year until 2035 to meet demand.

NAO head Amyas Morse said social care cannot continue as a “Cinderella” service.

He added: “The department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.”

Responding to the report, chair of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board Izzi Seccombe (Con) said: “This worrying report reflects the historic underfunding of social care which is putting severe pressure on the care workforce, the provider market and the availability of care.”

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