Better pay, better job prospects: why these are vital for the future of the care industry

The care industry is facing a growing workforce crisis – a crisis which, according to IPPR research, is ‘undermining the sustainability of the system and quality of care across the north of England’. Given that Greater Manchester (and beyond) is facing challenges associated with an ageing population, the findings are very worrying.

The report found that 31% of care workers in the North of England are on a zero-hours contract, whilst 160,000 were paid below the Real Living Wage in the last year. In fact, the social care sector alone accounted for 10% of workers that were paid less than the Living Wage.

Low pay, long hours and job uncertainty have long been commonplace in the care sector – and these factors make it hard to recruit and retain the best talent. The sector has also been underfunded for years, and the funding gap is expected to hit £3.56 billion by 2024/25. However, the sector matters – not only is it crucial for the wellbeing of our elderly, it’s also essential for the UK’s economic value, too.

There are currently 25,000 unfilled vacancies in social care in the North, and workforce data from Skills for Care shows that the vacancy rate across the country has risen from 6.6% to 8% over the past 12 months. So, what’s the answer?

We need to act now to improve career prospects in the industry if we’re able to give our elderly the care and compassion that they deserve.

Why the Real Living Wage needs to be introduced in the care sector

We’re proud to be a Real Living Wage employer, and we encourage all the businesses that we work with to also introduce the Real Living Wage in their organisation. IPPR has recently called for the Government to use their upcoming Green Paper on social care to introduce the Real Living Wage for the sector, as a way of addressing the growing workforce shortage. For the 160,000 care workers in the North, this would mean an average pay rise of over £1,000.

Introduction of the Real Living Wage in the care sector would boost morale among workers, which would have a positive impact on the quality of care being delivered to patients. After all, it’s no secret that the more valued an employee feels, the more effort they’ll put into their role. A better salary would also make it easier to attract the best new talent to the sector, and would go some way in breaking the stereotype that care work is low paid.

It’s also been recommended that the government introduce Sectoral Collective Bargaining in social care, similar to the NHS. This would involve setting up a sector council to bring together employers, trade unions, and Government to negotiate a minimum and legally binding set of pay and terms and conditions across the sector. This would no doubt bring extra stability and certainty around pay to many workers.

Building the right workforce

Employers are finding it more and more challenging to find people with the right values for care work, and that’s why we’re keen to step in and help. We want to find people with a genuine interest in the care sector to help meet the demands of an ageing population.

More needs to be done to encourage diversity in the care industry – and that includes employing people from ‘troubled’ or ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds. Employing someone with a blemished past might seem like a risk, but in fact it can open the sector up to a wealth of talent that’s all too often overlooked.

Skills and knowledge can be taught, whereas a genuine love for the care industry can’t. Being open-minded and choosing a candidate based on their natural drive and determination – rather than their past or background, is key when it comes to hiring loyal, dedicated employees who are keen to make a difference.

Doing our bit to boost skills in the care sector

Here at the Growth Company, we’re running a short course that’s designed to give people the skills and confidence they need to kick-start their career in the care industry.

The Level 1 Preparing to work in care programme is ideal for anyone who has been unemployed for a long time. Following successful completion of the course, learners gain the knowledge required for them to move onto a work placement – where they can gain their Care Certificate.

We also offer apprenticeships in the care sector, and work with some of the best employers in the industry to give our apprentices all the knowledge they need to practice high standards of care. Watch the video below to see how some of our learners at CASA are already making a huge difference to the lives of the people that they care for.

We want to create a strong, skilled and dedicated workforce to help bridge the skills gap and ensure that our elderly - and their families - have peace of mind that they’re going to receive the best possible care. We will continue to encourage employers to introduce the Real Living Wage, and do what we can to improve recruitment, retention and job quality in the sector. We are the Growth Company, and we’re committed to improving lives every day.