James Rycroft, chief executive of Harrogate-based Vida Healthcare, which has three care homes in the town, told this newspaper: “Unlike many professions, in social care you genuinely have the opportunity to change someone’s day, week, year in a really positive way. It’s not just a temporary, unskilled role; we will train you and give you the necessary skills to become a specialist in dementia care. It’s a genuinely rewarding, fulfilling, meaningful career.”
The call comes as the care sector grapples with a three per cent contraction in its workforce due to the twin impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, which has all but stopped the flow of Eastern European migrant workers, described by Mr Rycroft as “a major asset to the social care sector”. As a result, there is fierce labour market competition at a time of unprecedented demand for social care.
There are currently about 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia, but that figure is set to rise to 1.6 million by 2040, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
“The demographics are astonishing,” said Mr Rycroft. “One in six of us over the age of 80 has Alzheimer’s. It needs to be taken more seriously.”
In a bid to attract and retain staff, Vida recently increased staff wages by 30 per cent, and Mr Rycroft says the measure has already prompted an increase in applications.
The staff shortage is also being tackled at regional level. North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) last week launched a series of TV and radio adverts as part of a recruitment drive for the county’s social care sector, which has at least 1,000 vacancies a day.
NYCC councillor Michael Harrison said: “More people work in social care than in the NHS, around the clock in people’s homes, in care homes and other services, supporting people and changing lives for the better. They make a fundamental contribution to our society and they can also join a great career path, with opportunities in every community. You can make a difference on your doorstep.”
He added: “It is time for a sea-change. When we clapped for carers at the height of the pandemic in 2020, that wasn’t just about the NHS, important as that is. We would like to see a national review of pay and status. We want to see proper recognition of care workers as professionals, as we do for doctors and nurses: their roles are just as vital.”