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What keeps me awake at night

by Kirsty Kirsty

Jim Kane, CEO at Community Integrated Care

Social care is an extraordinary sector that makes an incredible difference to peoples’ lives. There are thousands of fantastic people, teams and services across the UK, delivering real and meaningful change for people who access care and support. This should always be a cause for optimism – the passion and commitment that our social care colleagues demonstrate daily is truly inspirational.

My worry is, though, that the sector is relying more and more on this well of resilience and compassion to make up for the deep systemic issues at hand. I’m increasingly concerned by the lack of political will exhibited by the major players to engage in an honest and open conversation about the real problems facing social care.

A deepening crisis

We say this often, but funding is the major challenge our sector faces – both the total lack available and the structure of what is. Every one of the countless problems we face, comes back to this lack of proper investment; in wages that recognise the skills required to thrive in social care and in career pathways that give parity of esteem with similar health-based roles.

At the end of last year, Community Integrated Care published our Unfair To Care 2022-23 report, delving further into the issues surrounding low-pay for frontline colleagues. We found that social care workers would need a 41% pay rise – equalling £8,036 – to have parity with their direct equivalents within the NHS. This is even more shocking when we break this down and see that, at current rates, it will take more than 23 years to arrive at equal pay – an entire generation.

Not only is this an injustice for our dedicated teams, but it is unsustainable for our sector as we face an ongoing recruitment crisis and thousands of vacancies every single day. We’re losing incredibly talented people, who have a vocation for a career in social care, but no longer feel it is viable for themselves and their families.

This is increasingly disheartening, as the social care sector’s potential truly lies in its people. There are thousands of social care workers who are passionate about improving the lives of people supported and who, with the right levels of investment, could drive the change required to make the sector sustainable for the future. The problem is, without a bigger conversation that includes the whole of Westminster, we struggle to achieve the scale of change required, and the investment we need to deliver it.

These challenges not only impact our colleagues but the people we support too. Gaps in our workforce can often mean we are unable to deliver to our full potential. Simply put, to provide incredible opportunities for people who access social care and to innovate in new technology and services that enable further independence, we need further investment.

What’s next for our sector?

We are fortunate at Community Integrated Care to have the financial firepower to continue to make investments in our workforce. Just recently, we announced a pay uplift for our 5,000 frontline colleagues that sees our charity pay the voluntary ‘real living wage’ recommended by the Living Wage Foundation, starting at £10.92 per hour in England and £11.40 per hour in Scotland for Support Workers. However, our resources aren’t infinite. Without wider positive change on the horizon, we know we need to act to ensure the people we support can continue to live the best lives possible, within a system that makes that vision increasingly difficult.

Collaboration within our sector is key. Whilst consolidation of providers is inevitable in such as fractured market, we must remember that a united voice will bolster the case for change. This is the real strength of the third sector; our ability to work together, align resources and collectively build activities and initiatives that will truly improve the lives of the people we support.

Image depicts Jim Kane, CEO at Community Integrated Care

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