Chronic underfunding and a dysfunctional social care system are contributing to a growing workforce crisis, the IPPR has warned.
A new report says the UK faces a 350,000 workforce shortage by 2028, rising to 400,000 if freedom of movement ends following Brexit.
Joe Dromey, Senior Research Fellow, said: “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 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.”
The think tank says an extra £450m is needed to lift call care workers to the real Living Wage with more 500,000 employees, almost half the workforce, below that level (currently £10.55 per hour in London and £9, elsewhere).
The report recommends a 1p increase in National insurance contributions to provide social care with a long term funding settlement.
It also calls for the immediate introduction of the real Living Wage for the social workforce and the adoption of sectorial collective bargaining, as in the NHS, to establish a legally binding set of pay and terms across the sector.
In addition, the report calls for the mandatory adoption of The Care Certificate and making care work a regulated profession to improve prestige and standards.
The IPPR also calls for the expansion of the CQC remit to cover employment and a minimum commissioning cost for local authorities.
It also advises revising the Shortage Occupation List to include the social care sector if freedom of movement ends following Brexit, as well as introducing a Trusted Sponsor Scheme containing an increased range of visa benefits for care providers demonstrating good employment practices.
UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “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.”