Care workers ‘earning less than dog walkers’ as crisis deepens in Capital

One job site had 1102 vacancies for care workers.
One job site had 1102 vacancies for care workers.
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The city is facing an unprecedented recruitment crisis in social care with thousands of jobs lying vacant and staff being paid more to walk dogs and stack supermarket shelves than work as carers.

Competition for scarce labour continues to intensify and numbers of new hotel, leisure, retail and call centre developments are adding to the pressure.

At any given time care jobs are the most single advertised position in the Capital with one recruitment site looking to fill an incredible 1102 vacancies in the last week.

This comes as the Evening News revealed more than 2200 people are either waiting for an assessment for care at home in the region or have been assessed as needing support and are waiting for it to be delivered.

The knock-on effect of the recruitment crisis has led to hold-ups in delivering home care with almost 200 people being stuck in hospital when they are well enough to be discharged.

In May, a damning report by the Care Inspectorate of health and social work services for older people in the Capital found that delivery of key processes was “unsatisfactory” and four other areas were described as “weak”.

The Edinburgh health and social care partnership have acknowledged that there are issues with recruitment and are working hand-in-hand with the Scottish Government to explore solutions to the problem.

Andrew Parfery, chief commercial officer of Edinburgh-based Care Sourcer Ltd, which has just been awarded £1m by NHS England after reducing delayed discharges in Gloucestershire by 40 per cent over the last three months, said more value needs to be put on care.

He said: “As a country we need to decide how much value we put on care.

“As a carer you will be asked to work unsociable hours, Christmas day, bank holidays and are only paid for the clients you go to.

“The hourly rate as a dog walker or working in a supermarket is higher when the time between visits is netted from headline pay rates.

“Tesco for example pays £7.40 an hour and Lidl £8.00. Remember these carers are our local heroes looking after our loved ones.

“We should pay them accordingly”.

He added: “A simple google search shows you the size of the problem in Edinburgh.

“Care jobs are the single most advertised position in the capital.

“On one job site alone there is an astonishing 1102 vacancies advertised which shows you how under staffed the sector currently is.

“To provide care for those currently waiting for a care at home package from the council, a staggering 260 more carers would be required overnight.

“All indicators suggest finding care for your mum or dad is becoming more challenging than finding your preferred school place for your children in the city.”

Latest figures reported last week to the Integration Join Board, which is responsible for the city’s health and social care, show delayed discharges at 186 in July down from 211 the previous month.

The Edinburgh Integration Joint Board are due to meet again on November 17 to discuss recruitment.

A spokesperson for the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership said: “The partnership is always looking at ways of recruiting more staff.

“Recently we have been supporting our providers who have experienced problems in their recruitment drive including hosting their job adverts on My Job Scotland.

“We of course want people to see that these are opportunities for a rewarding career which offers prospects and progression.

“Research on our target job market and discussions on incentives are underway and a full report detailing what actions are being taken to recruit and retain care staff will be going before the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board later this year.”

Health Secretary Shona Robison said in parliament last week that there are a number of factors that impact on recruitment in the Edinburgh care sector. These include local market conditions which, she said, even with a “much-enhanced” rate above the real living wage of £8.45 still made it difficult for care providers to recruit because other sectors like retail can pay people the same or potentially more.

She added in reply to a question from Shadow Health Secretary Miles Briggs that the Scottish Government had explored with the Edinburgh health and social care partnership other things they can do to enhance its opportunities for recruitment of the social care workforce. These included looking into accommodation and other supports beyond pay.

She said: “We are protecting and growing our social care services. The NHS is investing almost half a billion pounds of frontline spending this year into social care and integration, giving more people the right care in the right setting.

“Working with COSLA, care providers and others, our national health and social care workforce plan will consider ways to plan for and support our trained and dedicated workforce as they deliver new models of care.”

Mr Briggs slammed the Scottish Government for not focusing on recruitment in the care sector.

He said: “I accept the significant difficulties care companies are experiencing in trying to recruit staff and indeed raised this matter in Parliament last week with the Health Secretary.

“But this recruitment challenge isn’t new and it is one that the Scottish Government should have been focusing on far more effectively for many years now given demographic patterns and the rising demand for care.

“It is yet another example of how the SNP Government’s failure to put in place a proper health and social care workforce plan for more than ten years is hitting residents in Lothian.

“I will again be raising these matters directly with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and asking her to explain why Edinburgh’s IJB, even once it is able implement all its efficiency and improvement plans, believes it simply doesn’t have sufficient funding to meet the level of need in this area.”

Keith Robson, Age Scotland’s Charity Director, said: “There are nationwide issues with recruiting and retaining care workers, and this can have an impact on the quality and continuity of care.

“Although the Scottish Government has taken action through providing a living wage, too often carers are paid relatively poorly for a demanding job. We need to make these jobs more attractive to people and tackle the high level of staff turnover in this sector.

“This could get worse with Brexit on the horizon, since many care providers rely on workers from other European Union countries.”