Local social care services face a perfect storm, East Riding of Yorkshire Councillors told

Senior East Riding councillors have been warned local social care services face a perfect storm of staff leaving, care homes closing and rising demand which will worsen without urgent action.

By Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)
Friday, 26th November 2021, 2:17 pm
East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s cabinet heard social care staffing was in crisis due to low pay, coronavirus and Brexit while demand from people with more complex needs is forecast to rise.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s cabinet heard social care staffing was in crisis due to low pay, coronavirus and Brexit while demand from people with more complex needs is forecast to rise.

Council interim Adults and Social Care Director Gill Vickers told councillors wage rises and higher mileage rates for sector drivers were the only options available to stem the staff exodus.

But she added it would cost the council £1.8m, while Finance Director Julian Neilson said social care costs would still continue to climb as demand increases further.

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It comes as the cabinet heard the government had earmarked £979,000 for the East Riding from a fund to help councils cope with the pressure.

It also follows MP backing government plans for a social care cap, offering council help to people with assets worth between £20,000 and £100,000 but requiring them to pay £86,000.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the proposals were more generous than the current system, but Labour and other critics claim it would have uneven effects given regional house value differences.

East Riding’s cabinet also backed plans for grants for social care providers as part of regional efforts to prop up the sector, with four options set to be examined.

The scheme, piloted initially, would be backed by around £1.5m in funding from the European Regional Deveopment Fund, the council and the University of Hull.

The cabinet heard the council could either make flat grants worth £7,400 available to small and medium providers or bespoke ones of at least £5,000 or no more than £7,400.

The fourth option would be to offer grants of up to £7,400, with extra cash available in exceptional circumstances.

But the council also heard each proposal had its benefits and drawbacks, including an unknowable amount of applications which could exhaust the funds.

Ms Vickers told the cabinet early wage hikes would help prevent a further drain in staff until longer term measures were put in place.

She added it would see minimum wage increases brought forward from April to December specifically for carers but broader measures were needed to deal with the crisis.

The interim director also said government recruitment and retention grants would only be worth £140 per carer which would not be enough to stop them leaving.

She said: “We’re facing a perfect storm in social care.

“There are some national issues but they’re being exacerbated here, we have a maturing workforce who are poorly paid on wages which cannot compete with other industries.

“There’s also the issue of Brexit which has led to a number of people leaving the sector.

“Compulsory vaccines have caused even more workers to leave and it all comes as hospitals are also under pressure.

“In residential care we’ve got home owners who are ageing and want to sell up and leave, we’re propping up a number of providers.

“Two of our homes were also recently closed by the Care Quality Commission because their care was deemed to be inadequate.

“Before coronavirus that would have been blamed on bad management, but now homes can’t deliver the standards of care they need to because they don’t have the staff.

“If these issues aren’t addressed urgently the situation will become worse, not better.”

Council Finance Director Julian Neilson told councillors the government’s recruitment and retention fund was designed to help social care services cope during the winter.

He said: “The workforce crisis in social care services is a national issue, there’s more staff leaving than coming in, leaving providers unable to keep pace with growing demand.

“That demand is coming from people who have more complex needs which means the cost to the council’s budget is forecast to grow over the medium term.

“The crisis will place more pressure on our spending because the answer to a lot of the issues in the social care sector is financial.”

Council adults, health and wellbeing portfolio holder Cllr Vanessa Walker said she welcomed the moves.

But added she was unsure if they would be enough to quell the storm, with winter pressures already emerging.

Council leader Cllr Jonathan Owen said the situation in social care was volatile and the East Riding would look to be flexible in its actions to deal with the crisis.