Pay and working conditions in care homes should be assessed as part of an extended remit of regulators in the sector, according to a critical report by a charity that looks at the “crisis” in UK care homes for older people.
The report, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, called on the government to ensure regulators look at worker salaries – as well as staffing levels, commissioning practices and the transparency of tariff systems – because these factors “directly impact on quality of care”.
It also urged the government to ensure all care managers were registered and licensed to practise through a professional body.
This professional body for care managers should set professional standards, have disciplinary powers and provide a voice at a national policy level, said the report, to give assurance and to raise the status of the profession.
Funding for care homes has resulted in “bare bones” staffing levels and “appalling” pay, meaning the “sector is structured to fail”, claimed the report.
It points to recent statistics by think tank Demos, which showed that 78% of frontline care staff earn an average of £6.45 per hour, just 14p more than the minimum wage based on 2013 figures.
Meanwhile, funding for the adult social care sector in 2012-13 was £12bn – or 1.8% of the government’s total annual spend on services – while the NHS received £102.6bn (or 15.3%), highlights the report.
“The care sector is inadequately resourced to step up to effectively supporting the NHS in an ageing society”
“This is not a satisfactory or sustainable situation. The care sector is inadequately resourced to step up to effectively supporting the NHS in an ageing society,” it added.
Integration of health and social care is “essential” but requires significant shift in resources, status and attitudes, noted the report, adding: “Acute hospitals have no relationship with the care homes in their locality. They have a transactional collision every so often, when a resident is admitted to hospital or the discharge team wants to discharge, but it is not a functioning partnership”.
The report was written by the foundation’s director of care services, John Kennedy, following a year-long inquiry looking at existing research and new testimonies from workers across the sector, those using care home services and the general public.
As part of his recommendations, Mr Kennedy called for improved pay and reduced paperwork for care workers.
He called on care homes to “resist defensiveness” and be more transparent around their failings, and urges the government to declare the sector of primary national strategic importance.
Mr Kennedy said: “Real change is needed to end the neglect of our care home sector. Currently the system is set up to fail, with the minimum resource, effort and value placed on care homes.”
He added: “How many more reports of failing care do we need to hear about before we decide to act? We need to make our care homes better now. We need to have a system that maximises the potential of all care homes to be good.
“The government, regulators and care home providers need to come together to improve funding and pay, cut bureaucracy and inject humanity back into the system we rely upon to look after our loved ones and ourselves,” said Mr Kennedy.
The Care Quality Commission has required care homes to register with it since 2010, backed by inspections.
Around 40 care homes have so far been visited under the CQC’s new inspection regime for adult social care providers, which is currently being rolled out across England.