News of the staffing crisis in social care is nothing new. It has been the central issue in social care for a long time. The pandemic has merely highlighted and exacerbated the already severe crisis.
The immediate impact of the crisis is felt on the front line. In the National Care Forum's (NCF) response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry into the health and care workforce Vic Raynor (CEO of the NCF) said "ADASS’s winter contingency survey...has found that 49 local authorities are now rationing the care services they commission or taking a number of other exceptional measures, due to staffing shortages".
Beyond the front line, the staffing crisis has wider implications. Across the sector, whether in care homes, home care or housing with care there is a fragmented ownership structure with much of the care being delivered by smaller providers. The staffing crisis is making it impossible for many small providers to continue. The crisis is acutely felt in the home care sector where shortages of staff mean they simply can't deliver the services required. There is no shortage of enquiries but the lack of staff means such businesses can't deliver.
The effect is that many smaller providers are either shutting up shop completely or looking for an exit. Increased activity in the sale of such providers has been evident in the last 12 months and is likely to continue.
Consolidation by larger providers can provide a lifeline for under pressure smaller organisations and importantly ensure the continuance of a service that is vital to service users lives but many providers aren't so lucky. The failure of small providers is a warning to the Government that the workforce crisis is becoming critical. Vic Raynor sums it up well, "ultimately, a workforce crisis in social care puts strain on the wider health and social care system, as well as other parts of the public sector. It is a sign of system-wide failure".
If the Government wants the care sector to continue to deliver an often life-saving service it must act soon to resolve a crisis that threatens not just social care but the wider healthcare system in this country.
Vic Rayner OBE, CEO of the NCF said: “This crisis has not been created by Omicron, rather the pandemic has exacerbated pressures caused by chronic underfunding and a lack of workforce planning that were years in the making."