Social care at ‘tipping point’ as staff shortages deepen with 1,000 vacancies

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There are warnings social care in North Yorkshire is facing an imminent staffing crisis after health officials revealed a worrying drop in the number of people coming forward for vacant jobs.

Richard Webb, director of health and adult services at North Yorkshire County Council, said the sector is facing “unrelenting” pressures and that it had reached “tipping point” over recent weeks with a 70% drop in applications for the around 1,000 jobs currently vacant.

He said the NHS has also not escaped the staffing problems which existed before the pandemic but have only been exacerbated by the virus outbreak.

“We have seen a real tipping point over the last four to six weeks, particularly as the wider economy has reopened,” Mr Webb told a meeting of the North Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum today.

“What we are seeing is fierce competition between care services, hospitality, retail and other sectors for people to fill jobs.

“We have about 1,000 vacancies in social care across North Yorkshire – that’s not just us, that’s the 500 organisations that provide care in the county – and we have seen a 70% drop in applications for those jobs in the last few weeks.

“In North Yorkshire, we are as well placed as anywhere to deal with some of these pressures, but they are pretty unrelenting and they are probably the most significant I have seen in a quarter of a century working in social care and the NHS.”

Nationally, social care looks after around 400,000 people in care and nursing homes – three times the number in NHS hospital beds.

There are also around 640,000 people receiving care in their own homes.

Independent Care Group (ICG), a non-profit organisation which provides services in North Yorkshire and York, has raised concerns that as these numbers continue to rise, there may soon not be enough staff to care for the elderly and most vulnerable in society.

ICG chair Mike Padgham said in a statement: “We are approaching a crisis point where there simply won’t be enough people to go out and provide care to people at home and to those living in care and nursing homes.

“Care providers are facing a daily battle to cover home calls and care home shifts and it can’t go on.”

Mr Padgham is also calling on the government for short-term help and to also accelerate its long-delayed plans to overhaul the social care sector which ministers have pledged to publish by the end of the year.

A specific tax to help find the extra billions needed in funding and directing more cash straight to care homes are all ideas which have previously been brought to table, but these have never come to fruition.

Speaking at today’s meeting, Mr Webb said the reforms would not be a quick fix to the problems the sector is facing and that the county council would continue stepping up its support for care providers.

He said: “I’m pleased that the government is looking at how it can reform social care, but that will take probably three to five years – it is not going to be an instant solution.

“That is why we have continued to put additional funding into social care while we have been giving so much other support to individual care providers.”

The county council is also urging people to consider careers in social care as part of its Make Care Matter campaign.

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