A minister has suggested some social care staff could work more hours in response to the recruitment crisis.
Gillian Keegan MP made the comments after a devastating report revealed care homes were closing due to an exodus of staff, leaving hospitals to pick up the pieces.
The Department of Health last night announced a new £162.5million retention and recruitment fund to bolster the workforce.
Care minister Gillian Keegan said some of the money will allow people in the sector to work more hours by funding things such as extra childcare.
When it was pointed out on BBC Breakfast that the fund equated to around £108 per care worker, she replied: “That’s not the metric we use. What we’re looking to do is to get more hours in the system. Many millions of more hours in the system.
“And that’s done by either agency workers…in terms of retain there’s a lot of capacity in the workforce as well.
“So we’ve done this before, we did it in the pandemic, it paid for things like child care so that somebody could work some extra hours, give more flexibility in those individual decisions.
“As well as agency workers, as well as recruiting new workers. So it isn’t just divided it all amongst 1.5 million people, clearly that’s not going to be the right approach. So it’s there to retain and grow capacity.”
When it was put to her she was telling people to work more hours, she replied: “No, only if people can. No, not at all.
“We did this before, during the pandemic, and some people chose to work more hours, if they had for example contribution to childcare costs – that did work before.
“We’re not telling people to work more hours at all, but we did see there was some spare capacity in the system for people if we help them with additional costs.
“So that’s one option, of course agency staff is another option and recruiting and training new staff.”
The Care Quality Commission report, published on Friday, warns that urgent action is needed to prevent a “tsunami of unmet need”, with staff “exhausted and depleted”.
CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm said the “serious and deteriorating” care staffing crisis will have knock-on effects for hospitals and GPs.
It found social care staff are increasingly leaving to take up better-paid jobs in shops and bars.
However, Keegan rejected calls to allow more social care workers to come in from abroad to address labour shortages.
She ruled out putting them on the home office’s shortage occupation list, telling Sky News: “I don’t think that is really the answer, hoovering up everybody else’s social care.”
Boris Johnson is also raising national insurance to pay to raise £36 billion over three years for the social care crisis.