By Matt Jarram, Local Democracy Reporter
Around 1,200 new home care workers are needed this year to fix a ‘social care crisis’ across Nottingham as hundreds of elderly people wait for long-term care.
Home carers provide essential personal care and support to the elderly and disabled including getting them washed and dressed, cooking meals, and providing companionship.
But there is a huge shortage of people entering the profession, which pays around £10.50 an hour, leaving councils in a difficult position.
Some home care job adverts in Nottingham have received zero applicants.
Nottingham City Council spends £89m a year on delivering adult social care to around 5,000 elderly people at any one time as well as around 1,500 people with mental health and learning disabilities.
And this total number of people the council supports has grown by more than a 1,000 over the last five years.
The authority has previously described the ongoing situation as a ‘crisis’ in social care, which is affecting local authorities across the country.
The council argues most council tax properties in the city are in the lowest bands of A and B, affecting how much money it can generate, and the government’s social care precept still leaves them short of cash to run the service.
If residents don’t own their home or have less than £23,000 in savings, then it is likely the authority will pick up the cost of care.
It says tough decisions such as closing libraries and children’s centres, which are not deemed ‘statutory’ – or essential – by Government, are the only way to prop up the care service – which is classed as statutory.
Cllr Adele Williams (Lab), portfolio holder for adult social care, said local services such as bus services would continue to be squeezed if more money is not found to meet the needs of an ageing population.
The council directly employs 350 home carers as well as commissioning healthcare providers to employ around 3,860 on its behalf.
But the local authority says it needs around 1,200 more home carers this year, and more than 7,000 in total over the next couple of years.
Currently, there is a waiting list of around 100 people requiring assessments, a third of which are in hospital waiting to transfer back home, and 200 people waiting for long-term home care services.
Sara Storey, director of adult social care at the city council, who started in local council work as a care assistant, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The biggest capacity issues we have are in the home care workforce and that is a real challenge.
“Our primary aim is to reduce the number of people we admit into residential and nursing care. One of our key aims is for people to live as independently as possible.
“Prior to the pandemic, Nottingham had made great strides in overall numbers. I think progress against that has stalled because of the lack of capacity in the homecare market.
“If people cannot live at home fully independent without any support, then we are having to place people temporarily in care homes while we wait to find that home care support they need.
“If we don’t get people back home as soon as possible there is a risk people will lose independence and become more likely to go into a longer-term placement sooner.
“That is one of the reasons why we are keen to have sufficient home care capacity for people.
“Generally, it is not a choice people are making these days. People are preferring to stay at home if they can.”
Cllr Williams added: “We are a city where people do not have a lot of assets, a city with relatively low home ownership, so the levels of people paying for their own support is less than other areas.
“We have got a situation where adult social care in not funded nationally in the way it should be.
“It should be nationally funded and locally delivered. If you look at the way we have supported our bus services – we have that commitment to a regular local bus service across the city.
“Local services such as bus services would continue to be squeezed if more money is not found to meet the demands of an ageing population.”
The council is now encouraging more people to think about a job in the care sector.
Mrs Storey said: “We do not know what the demand will be due to the long-term impact of Covid – there are a number of forces at work to make it difficult to forecast. Double (of the 3,860 carers we have got) would be a fair estimation over the next few years.
“For our in-house we have got 20 to 25 vacancies, and most providers have told us they have had rolling recruitment ads for a very long time. In some cases, they have had zero applicants.
“People get into social care for a variety of reasons, but they stay due to the job satisfaction and the vocation.
“We are speaking to providers about what are the reasons (around low recruitment). It is not just the hourly rate that people are paid, there is a lot of other stuff that makes the job attractive.
“It is tough work, and the hours can be tricky, so it’s about what can we do to support people with those challenges to make it easier for people to work in that sector.”
Cllr Williams said: “It is one of those jobs where you can go away and know you have made a difference.”
The Government did not respond to a request for comment from the Local Democracy Reporting Service – but it has previously said the 1.25 per cent Health and Social Care Levy – introduced in April 2022 – will fix some of the problems.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Sajid Javid previously said: “This additional funding is a critical investment in our country’s future – it will give the NHS the extra capacity it needs to get back on its feet and is a vital first step in the reform of our broken care system.”