Training must be a key focus for the care sector

Fay Gibbin, Chief Executive Officer, BB Training Academy, talks about the recruitment and retention challenges in the health and social care sector and why training has to be a key focus of the upcoming green paper.

We know the health and social care sector is facing significant recruitment and retention challenges. These issues aren’t new but without meaningful action, they’re a concern that grow day by day.

With the UK’s impending exit from the EU, forecasts predict that these challenges will only be exacerbated as the pool of talent to choose from is reduced further. 

Last year, 95,000 people working in the health and social care sector were EU migrants, that’s 7 per cent of the sectors entire workforce. Since the referendum, there seems to have been little impact to date, but that’s widely expected to change once the UK officially leaves the European Union.

Worrying forecasts by the Nuffield Trust predict that the shortfall in workers needed in the sector is expected to reach 70,000 by 2025[i].Funding and a strategy for recruitment needs to be put in place to ensure significantly more people work in health and social care and have access to quality training and a fair salary.

The scale of funding for care workers required year on year is suggested in analysis by the Office for National Statistics. It’s found that every year the UK economy saves almost £60bn[ii]on unpaid carers. Without highly skilled carers, the right care and support cannot be provided for the people who need it most and their families. It means the sector will need significant investment even higher than the £60bn quoted.

Aging population 

It isn’t just Brexit that is posing a challenge to the care sector’s workforce. Advances in healthcare and higher living standards means the UK’s over-65 population is set to increase by almost half by the mid-2030s and the number of people living with complex care needs continues to grow. This will have a direct effect on the number of health and social care workers needed on a scale never see before. It cannot be ignored, we need to see radical action before it is too late. 

Sector retention

The issues with recruitment are only made more prevalent by low retention rates and considerable churn within the industry. The Health Foundation[iii]found in a report Training must be a key focus for the care sectorin 2017 that 900 social care workers were estimated to leave the sector every day. It also found that 27 per cent of workers left the industry citing better pay and less pressures in industries such as hospitality as the main reasons for leaving. Incentives like training, which offers opportunities for progression and a clear career path and gives them the skills to deliver outstanding care, can be part of the solution to retain care workers. 

In England there is more than 80,000 vacancies in health and social care at any one time. The industry is already at tipping point but with the increased number of people needing complex care and a significant lack of highly-skilled carers, action must be taken now to attract and retain more talent. 

Is change coming?

New roles and skills are needed going forward to meet the change in the number of people requiring complex care with more focus on person centred care. In research by Skills For Care it found that only 21 per cent of carers have taken person centred care training[iv]. This needs to be at the forefront of future care. 

This autumn, the government plans to outline its proposals for health and social care in its green paper. We want to see new thinking that includes significant funding for training and that’s considered the thoughts of people living with disabilities to ensure they receive care that provides them with independence, opportunity and control. It has to be about the individuals.

We hope that worry about change, won’t undermine the ambition required to end the funding crisis. With or without the issue of Brexit, the system going forwards has to change full stop.