The struggling adult social care sector is facing a growing workforce crisis due to chronic low pay and endemic job insecurity, a new report has revealed.
The study from the progressive think tank IPPR has revealed that nearly half the social care workforce — 500,000 people — were paid below the real living wage.
They account for one in 10 of all the UK workers paid below the real living wage (£10.55 per hour in London and £9.00 elsewhere).
The sector currently faces a £3.5bn funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care.
Low pay and poor working conditions, caused by what IPPR describe as the ‘chronic underfunding’ of care and a race to the bottom by private providers, has resulted in the sector struggling to recruit and retain the workers it needs to meet rising demand.
The IPPR analysis shows there will be a shortage of 350,000 workers in social care by 2028, rising to nearly 400,000 if freedom of movement ends after Brexit.
‘The treatment of the care workforce is a national scandal. They provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Yet half of care workers are paid below the real Living Wage,’ said Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at IPPR.
‘Given that over four in five workers in social care are women, poverty pay in the sector is also a major contributor to the gender pay gap.
‘We need to value care workers and we need to invest in social care. Government should use its upcoming Green Paper to introduce a real Living Wage for care workers.
‘Improving their pay and job quality is is essential if we are to tackle the growing workforce crisis and ensure that all those who will need better care as they grow older can be properly looked after.’
Responding to the report, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis commented: ‘Low pay and a lack of funding are at the very heart of the social care crisis.
‘Cash-strapped councils don’t have enough to spend on care. So the firms who get the contracts end up squeezing staff wages. Care workers on poverty pay have to put in very long hours, often across several jobs. It’s no wonder many don't stay for long.
‘They and the people they look after are paying the price. The crisis in care can no longer be ignored.’