Improving the Perception of the Value of Care

25 March, 2021

By 2030, there’ll be 1.2 million more people aged 85 in the UK than we have today – an increase of nearly 80% between 2018 and 20331. By 2040, nearly one in seven people is projected to be aged over 752.

With retirement at 65 and an average life expectancy of 80 years, there will be a significant increase in the number of people needing health and social care. Below we’ve outlined some highlights and top 3 areas that bring value to care including:

  1. Salary
  2. Training & Development
  3. Flexibility

As the population ages, an increasing number of workers are providing care for family members towards the end of their working life. One in four older female workers, and one in eight older male workers, have caring responsibilities4.

Overall, parents are the most common recipient of care by those of older working ages (29% of informal carers provide care to parents). And almost two-thirds (64%) of those people caring for parents are in work5.

Unpaid informal care provided by friends and family is essential to our society and the economy. But with an aging population, the need for parental care among older workers is only going to increase. People in their 50s and 60s are increasingly likely to have living parents from the ‘baby boomer’ generation, who are developing long-term care needs.

But what happens when family and friends can’t provide that care? If family members live in another area of the country, many miles from their aging parents for example, providing that informal care becomes difficult, if not impossible. The inevitable consequence is that pressure on the NHS and the social care system will only get worse. But unlike the NHS, social care isn’t free.

Since 2010, the number of older people asking councils for help has increased, but fewer and fewer now qualify for support in their own home. Age UK estimates there are 1.5 million people in England who need some help with day-to-day life, but do not receive it. That means one in seven (15%) of those aged 65+ are struggling without the help they need to carry out everyday tasks such as getting out of bed, visiting the bathroom, washing and getting dressed6.

That means we’ll need a huge increase in the number of professional carers in the UK. If the adult social care workforce in the UK grows in proportion to the projected increase in the number of people aged 65+, then the number of adult social care jobs will increase by 32% (520,000 jobs) to around 2.2 million jobs by 20357.

But with a staff turnover rate of 30%, equating to nearly 440,000 people leaving care jobs every year, and with over 110,000 care job vacancies advertised at any one time, we may need as many as another 650,000 professional carers by 20358.

Scarcity of staff, hectic workload, and time-consuming reporting means care can be one of the toughest jobs in the world. At the same time, it can be one of the most fulfilling, especially if care workers feel valued and properly rewarded and are able to use their time productively by helping others.

Working in adult social care makes a real difference to people’s lives every day. So how do we attract 650,000 new people to work in social care? Whilst there isn’t an easy way to fix the wider issues the sector is facing, there are several factors which can influence whether people choose a career in care, and they begin by considering how valued care staff feel. That value is influenced by several factors, including:

1. SALARY

Clearly paying care staff better is an obvious choice, as many social care jobs attract lower-the-average salaries when compared to other roles. According to Indeed, the average hourly pay for care workers ranges from approximately £9.43 per hour to £13.49 per hour9. Simply increase that salary to £15-£18 would certainly help to attract new people to care work.

There is also the “golden handcuff” approach, which West Berkshire Council implemented a few years ago, offering £15,000 bonuses to front-line social care staff to stay for three years. That scheme worked, helping the council shake off an “inadequate” Ofsted ranking and cutting vacancy rates for care roles from 50% to just 10%. But few cash-strapped councils are unlikely to that opportunity in a post-Covid world.

2. TRAINING & DEVELOPMENT

But higher salaries are not the only motivator. Surprisingly, more money is not as important as being happy in their work, which often comes from the support and development available. To truly feel valued, care workers also need access to training and development.

And not just training to do the job they do now, but training to develop their skills and experience, take on more varied and challenging work, and even to progress their career into more senior roles. Learning, qualifications and even mentoring by more experienced staff can all play a part in personal and professional growth.

3. FLEXIBILITY

Last but by no means least is the ability to flex shift patterns around other commitments, such as caring for their own family or fitting work in around further studies. Empowering care workers by giving them some flexibility in their hours to work in the way that best meets their own needs together with the needs of those they care for offers better work/life balance and job satisfaction. That choice and independence can make care workers feel much more valued.

Elunow UK supports the Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘When you care, every day makes a difference’ campaign.