Mitesh Dhanak, Chair of the Organising Committee of Championing Social Care and Founder of Precious Homes, states the case for putting social care at the heart of post-pandemic health and economic recovery
The social care sector has been under pressure for many years, but the strain upon the sector has increased significantly over the course of the pandemic. There have been numerous reports about the backlog in the NHS during and post-COVID-19. The lack of sufficient capacity in the sector meant that hospitals could not safely discharge patients, resulting in bed shortages and treatment delays.
Nearly 300,000 people were waiting to access adult social care in 2021 and the sector faced a “deluge” of new requests as restrictions were lifted last year. The number of adults needing social care in England alone has been projected to increase by 50% up to nearly 1.5 million in 2039. This makes social care a central part of any national, regional and local discussion on public health in the years to come.
The rising demand for social care, however, is not offset by a rise in staff working in the sector. On the contrary, around 410,000 care workers quit their jobs last year. Vacancies in the sector nearly doubled to 10% in the same period as many professionals faced burnout from the pandemic and grappled with funding challenges.
Despite the integral role the care sector played during the pandemic – and still plays – its role in the public eye is marginal in comparison to that of the NHS.
The future of social care
Social care is not a priority for most people until they themselves reach an advanced age or have a relative who needs to access social care. Even the Queen’s Speech did not include any mention of social care – a small yet unmistakable sign that social care does not enjoy high priority in national conversation.
But with effective utilisation of social care and investment in the sector, the backlog in the NHS can be cleared more swiftly. Investment in social care can thus improve health outcomes for not just older adults, but for a much wider population.
It is clear that greater attention and value for social care needs to stem from its present and future users, especially among those who believe that care homes do not provide a positive and fulfilling experience. It is also essential to address the labour shortage by showing how the managerial path offers tremendous career prospects in the sector.
Much of the recent focus has been on workers who are quitting jobs in social care. But we also need to put the spotlight on the number of professionals entering the sector. We need to tell the stories of care workers who enthuse about how much they love their jobs and the positive change their work has brought to not just the lives of their patients, but also to their own.
Care Home Open Week
This is why Championing Social Care is hosting Care Home Open Week – a weeklong event targeted at prospective residents and their families, potential employees and policymakers.
Through the event, we will be celebrating the value of social care and connecting care homes across the country with their communities. We aim to present the facilities, services and activities care homes can offer, showcase career opportunities in the sector, and encourage greater community engagement and volunteering.
Last year’s event received engagement from Helen Whatley MP (Minister for Social Care), Sir Ed Davey MP (Leader of the Liberal Democrats) and Dr Rosena Allin-Khan MP (Shadow Minister for Mental Health). We aim to forge deeper connections between the sector, policymakers and the public, and establish social care as central to recovery from the pandemic.
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