By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Nottinghamshire County Council plans to give more pay rises to homecare staff to bring sustainability to its “fragile” recruitment in the sector.
The Conservative-led authority has conducted a survey of providers to assess the amount it pays to commission different care services.
The council, as a social care authority, is responsible for all adult social care in Nottinghamshire.
The authority has its own in-house staff but also pays organisations like agencies and care homes to provide the service on its behalf.
It says the recent surveys were held to get a “better picture” of the local care market ahead of planned Government reforms.
They found “variation” in the amount the council pays providers, with more cash needed for organisations providing personalised care in houses and supported living settings.
A £1 hourly pay uplift was approved in July last year to offer financial support to carers in these areas.
However, the council has since found even more cash is needed to prevent a high turnover of staff.
Melanie Williams, the authority’s corporate director for social care, says the council also needs to nurture workers as they continue to recover from the pandemic.
She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The surveys told us we’re paying above the usual rate in some areas.
“But they also told us that – for homecare and supported living – it’s really quite fragile because of workforce pressures.
“In July last year, we decided to invest in those areas of the market and this survey has told us we need to continue doing that.
“We also found social care really went through it during the pandemic, it’s still recovering financially and the wellbeing of the workers is suffering.”
The July 2022 investment came amid concerns some carers were leaving the sector to take up roles with “better rates of pay and easier work”.
The aim was to encourage more of the 24,000-strong workforce to remain in the sector amid a then-30 per cent turnover rate.
Future work, Ms Williams says, will continue in a similar format but will be targeted towards areas of care “people want” to receive.
“We’re not calling this [future work] a £1 uplift but we’re moving towards more sustainable pay,” she said.
“We’re continuing to invest in how much we pay for homecare services and supported living because they are the services people want.
“They want to stay in their home for as long as possible but, if they don’t have a home, they want somewhere they can recognise as their own front door.”
She also wants to promote care as a “career pathway” and encourage more carers to progress through the sector.
The director believes the future £1.14bn East Midlands devolution deal, which will hand more powers and funding to the region, could also benefit the care workforce.
Extra cash will be provided to boost education and skills and she says this could open up avenues for health and social care careers.
Ms Williams, who started work as a carer aged 17 before working her way up to becoming the council’s director, added: “We don’t make enough of those career pathways and people seeing care has value and potential.
“People just see it as a job but it has prospects.”
It’s as the authority prepares for the Government’s Fair Cost of Care reform, which could raise the amount it pays providers from about £19 to £23.50 per hour on average.
It’s estimated this would cost £41.57m to deliver, but Whitehall projections suggested the council may only get about £8.82m in support – leaving a £32.75m gap.
Ms Williams has previously been outspoken about the potential financial challenges but says recent work is preparing the authority and the wider market for these changes.
And Councillor Matt Barney (Con), cabinet member for adult social care, says the priority is ensuring social care staff feel valued in their jobs.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Care providers and their incredible staff do the most extraordinary work every day.
“They are literally life-shaping and there’s no more valuable work to be done in Nottinghamshire than theirs.
“We’re genuinely grateful to them especially after getting through the though winter months.”