Home care providers are facing their worst staffing crisis in history, with many unable to take on new clients in need of care, a major survey has confirmed.
More than three quarters (78%) of the 843 providers surveyed by ITV News, in conjunction with United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA), said recruiting carers is the hardest it has ever been.
The survey backs up results from a similar poll carried out on 140 providers earlier this year.
Due to the staffing crisis, 30% of the surveyed said they are handing back some, or all, of their contracts to local authorities because they can no longer fulfill their duties.
Out of the respondents, 95% said they are unable to take on all the new clients in need of their help.
This is the case for Candlelight Care based in Somerset, which is now down to 60 carers after previously employing 100.
Manager Tracy Weare told ITV News: “You’ve got somebody on the phone, somebody crying, because they’ve been told to source their own care and they’ve been ringing up providers trying to place a package.
“You’re probably the last one on their list – you’re that last glimmer of hope and then you have to turn around and say you can’t help. It’s soul-destroying.”
Commenting on the survey, Kathryn Smith, CEO of Social Care Institute for Excellence said: “This home care staffing survey is really concerning. With providers unable to take on new clients, some people’s home care needs are likely to be unmet.
“There’s no escaping the fact that current funding levels have led to the growing social care workforce crisis. Workers’ low pay and low status contribute to high rates of turnover and vacancies among care providers. As this survey highlights, the workforce crisis extends beyond care homes to include social care provided in community settings and in people’s homes.
“To truly improve people’s experiences of social care, we have to attract and retain a qualified workforce. Simply stabilising the system will not be enough to meet the growing the demand for social care. We’re calling on the government to work with the sector on long-term reforms that include investing in a stable, flexible workforce.”
The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the longstanding issues of recruitment and retention in the sector, with demand for services rising and more people leaving the sector due to low pay and burnout.
Unattractive terms and conditions, competition with other businesses and Brexit have also been blamed for staff shortages.
UKHCA has also warned that mandatory vaccine rules, expected to come into force across the entire social care sector, could make matters worse.
CEO Dr Jane Townson said: “Our concern is that vaccination as a condition of deployment will likely result in a substantial loss of the workforce and, right now, we are experiencing challenges that are greater than anyone can ever remember.”
In a letter to the Minister of Care, Helen Whately, UKHCA has proposed ways in which the government could help tackle the crisis, both in the short- and long-term.