WITH inflation at a 40-year high, soaring energy prices and stagnant wages, all employees, individuals, and families are fighting to stay afloat.
The latest annual Skills for Care workforce analysis found in the year to March there were 165,000 vacant care roles, a rise of 52% from the previous year.
Local Solutions – a charity launched back in 1974 that delivers services to support individuals, families and communities across the Liverpool City Region and North Wales – employs a total of 480 staff members, including 350 social care workers who provide direct support for vulnerable people in their own homes.
The demand for social care staff continues to rise in line with the UK’s ageing population. Lee Houghton, Head of Social Care at Local Solutions highlighted that ‘the current system is over-prescriptive, underfunded and under-resourced. Care is commissioned and paid for, in some cases, by the minute and most staff are therefore only paid for the actual minutes they spend delivering care placing many in financial hardship’.
The Department of Health and Social Care said there were currently 13,000 people in hospital who should be receiving care in the community. Across the UK the average care worker’s pay is £1 per hour less than healthcare assistants in the NHS that are new to the role.
Against this backdrop, Local Solutions took the bold step of electing to become a Real Living Wage payer and by April 2023 will have raised frontline wages by almost £2 in an 18-month period.
Tom Harrison, Chief Executive at Local Solutions feels charities like Local Solutions are compelled to lead the way, he said:
“Our sector has an important role to play during times of crisis. Our creativity and agility can help us to respond to the challenges and protect the most vulnerable in our communities but we also have a responsibility to lead the way as social employers. Behaviour doesn’t always have to follow funding and charities have the right structures – without expensive, unwieldy back-office costs and without the imperative to make profits for shareholders – to lead the way and put people first.”
In addition to increases in pay, Local Solutions is going above and beyond to support their staff with a range of measures to help ease the pinch, providing extra support to their employees with the provision of winter-specific uniforms, enhanced mileage payments and free mobile phones with unlimited data helping people stay connected as they work from home or help support service users out in the community.
For all the positive leadership and commitment from organisations like Local Solutions, there is a feeling this can’t last and that real change is needed and needed soon. Tom Harrison concluded, ‘charities like ourselves can and will keep pushing to do the very most for the people and communities we support, but real change has to come through a radical reimagining of how we deliver social care and a more comprehensive way of funding and recognising the vital role care workers play in the social, emotional and economic wellbeing of our population.
‘Until this happens we will continue to use all of our energy and resources just to tread water.’
To find out more about Local Solutions, click here.