A major watchdog report says the Government is not doing enough to support the social care workforce.
The study published by the National Audit Office (NAO) calls for a national social care workforce strategy.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.
“Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the Department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.”
The report says that while many people in the sector find work rewarding, they feel undervalued and have limited opportunities for career progression, particularly compared with the health care sector.
Turnover in the sector has been rising since 2012-13 and stood at 27.8% in 2016-17. Vacancy rates stood at 6.6% in 2016-17, well above the national average of 2.5-2.7%.
To meet rising demand, the study estimates the workforce will need to grow by 2.6% every year until 2035, against a current growth rate of around 2%.
The NAO said the lack of sustainable funding for the sector was acting as a further obstacle to recruitment and retention.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson responded: “We recognise there are challenges in the social care workforce – that’s why we’ve launched a consultation on the adult social care workforce and committed to publishing a health and care workforce strategy in the summer.
“At the Spring Budget we provided an extra £2 billion funding to the sector and we have just announced a further £150 million for 2018-19. We will publish plans this summer to reform social care to ensure it is sustainable for the future.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said: “The NAO’s report provides yet more evidence that the social care system is fit to burst and that the Government is not doing enough to support the social care workforce. Workforce is the most valuable asset to care providers and they need to be able to support, develop and pay them appropriately.
“No more reviews, no more consultations; let Government press ahead with all the necessary partners, to provide some much needed direction to a sector that is struggling.”
Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), added: “People who use adult social care services, their families and carers, need skilled staff who are valued and properly supported to carry out their critically important roles to deliver great care.
“We share the NAO concerns about the difficulties the sector faces in recruiting and retaining care staff, nurses and managers and see evidence from our inspections of the detrimental impact this can have on the quality of care people receive.
“The NAO report highlights some of the key issues that need to be addressed in the discussion about the future of adult social care as we look forward to the publication of the Government’s Green Paper later this year.”
A spokesperson for the Social Care Institute for Excellence added: “As well as tackling problems with pay and conditions for this predominantly female workforce, we also need to look at alternative routes into the care profession.”