Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the extraordinary contribution of social care workers. The pandemic has demonstrated how valuable care workers are. They do so much to make our care sector one to be proud of and they deserve our respect, admiration and full support.
Alongside other frontline staff, I am concerned that care workers have been undervalued and underpaid for too long, and our social care sector has lacked the priority and support it needs.
Workforce burnout and shortages are among the most pressing issues faced by the care sector. With more than 100,000 staff vacancies and burnout among existing staff reaching emergency levels, the future functioning of services is at risk.
Improving quality and access to social care depends on proper support for our care workforce. It is vital that we address high rates of vacancy, inadequate levels of retention and workforce terms and conditions.
Yet in my view, the Government has failed to bring forward a credible long-term strategy to recruit the care workers we need to meet growing demand, or to deliver staff the good pay, training and working conditions they so desperately need.
The Government’s White Paper on social care reform fails to deal with the immediate pressures in the system and it does not set out the comprehensive and forward-thinking vision we need to deliver a care system that is fit for the future. Despite pledges and manifesto commitments, there is still no credible plan from Ministers. And at the recent Budget and Spending Review, the Chancellor failed to provide certainty about the budgets for staff education and training.
Care staff need more than warm words and applause. They have been asked to give so much and too often they get so little in return. As part of wider reforms to put social care on an equal footing with the NHS, I support a ‘New Deal for Care Workers’ that would improve pay – ensuring all care workers are paid at least a real living wage of £10 an hour – transform training, terms and conditions, and ensure proper career progression.