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Staff shortages leave home care sector 'fragile'

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“Relentless” staff shortages have left the home care sector struggling, researchers have warned.

The King’s Fund and the University of York found a high turnover of care staff and uncovered fears that some were being paid below legal minimum wage.

“Squeezed funding and a shortage of workers have left the home care sector in a fragile state”

Simon Bottery

Their report is based on interviews with home care providers and local authority commissioners.

It revealed fees paid by some councils were too low to maintain quality services, which led to a high turnover of staff and providers – resulting in negative impacts on care.

Analysis from the charity and university discovered that four in 10 home care workers left their role every year and more than half of them were on zero-hour contracts.

The researchers determined that the challenge of recruitment in the home care market was “relentless”.

They also highlighted “squeezed funding” in the sector with council spending on social care 3% lower in 2017-18 than in 2009-10 in light of grant reductions from central government.

The market for home care providers was “extremely fragile”, the researchers warned in their ’Home care in England: views from commissioners and providers’ report (see PDF attached below).

In 2016/17, around 500 new home care agencies registered each quarter and 400 left the market, the report noted.

The findings were published as news comes that one major home care provider, Allied Healthcare, has been sold and has transferred many of its contracts to other providers.

Simon Bottery, senior fellow in social care at The King’s Fund, said: “Squeezed funding and a shortage of workers have left the home care sector in a fragile state.

“Home care providers are competing for staff with other sectors paying higher wages, offering more stable employment and better working conditions,” he added.

The home care sector supports more than 400,000 older and disabled people in helping them to achieve daily activities such as washing, dressing and eating.

“The 249 million hours of home care delivered each year, much of it publicly-funded, has huge potential to improve people’s health and promote their independence,” Mr Bottery added.

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