Three quarters of care workers have suffered a deterioration in their mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the GMB.
Following its survey of 1,200 social care workers, the union called on the government and employers to step up and address the mental health crisis in social care.
Rachel Harrison, GMB National Officer for care, said: “Care workers have been asked to make incredible sacrifices during the pandemic, and these sobering figures demonstrate the urgent need for better support.”
Three quarters of respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic has had a serious negative impact on their mental health with workers reporting anxiety levels 44% higher than those in other parts of the economy.
The GMB said low pay, insecure working, and inadequate sick pay were all contributing factors to poor mental health in the sector. The average care worker in England is paid £8.80 an hour and a third of care workers are employed on a zero hours contract, according to figures reported by employers.
Rachel added: “Members describe having to nurse much loved residents as they died from this terrible disease, while all the while worrying about their own safety and how they were going to pay the bills.
“Our care members are dedicated, compassionate professionals but everyone has their breaking point. For too many, the combined effect of poor employment conditions and the pandemic has been too much to bear.”
The union is calling for dedicated national mental health services, a substantial increase in pay and full sick pay for workers when self-isolating.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We are committed to ensuring all our dedicated frontline care workers can access the support they need during this difficult time. To support social care workers’ wellbeing we have worked with the NHS and other organisations to develop a package of psychological and practical resources, including ‘Our Frontline’, which is a source of information and emotional support.
“The government has invested over £1.4 billion in adult social care, on top of £4.6 billion for local authorities to address pressures on public services, free PPE and increased staff testing. Delivering a care system that is fit for the future remains a top priority and we will bring forward proposals for social care later this year.”