Poor wages and burnout fuelling care crisis warns union as vacancies left unfilled

18 February 2022

ITV News Border – Video report by Kate Walby

Click here to view our Heron Hill Staff highlighting the care crisis http://www.itv.com/news/border/2022-02-16/the-care-crisis-in-the-itv-border-region

The care sector in the ITV Border region is in the midst of a crisis.

In Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders there are multiple vacancies and employers are struggling to find people to fill them.

According to Skills for Care – the organisation which helps to develop the workforce in the sector – there are 105,000 vacancies for care staff being advertised each day across the UK.

Support group Carers UK estimates that, by 2037, there will be a need for 40% more staff.

The three major councils in our region have all launched recruitment drives to bring people into the care sector, but several issues have been highlighted when it comes to attracting staff.

Poor wages, burn out, over work, Brexit and increased competition for employees in the post-lockdown economy have all been described as barriers by the trade union Unison.

For example pay in the private sector can be the living wage of £8.91 per hour, less than people could get paid working in a supermarket or in a restaurant.

“We have had to work longer hours, more hours, because there’s not been the staff to cover the shifts actually and when you’ve got people ill it takes a lot more to care for them and look after them as we can,” said Rob Lownds, head of well-being at Heron Hill Care Home in Kendal.

“Putting on the PPE every time just takes a lot and it’s hot wearing it. The money is not great but it is a rewarding job if you can do it.”

Care homes

In addition to the struggles the sector is facing when it comes to recruiting staff, both Cumbria and Dumfries and Galloway have also seen care homes close.

Figures from the House of Commons Library show the number of care homes in Cumbria has dropped by 32% since 2015 from 213 down to 145, well above the UK average of closure.

Figures released by Public Health Scotland show there are now 34 registered care homes in Dumfries and Galloway – down from 46 in 2011. A fall of 26%.

No homes though have closed in the Scottish Borders.

Community care

While care homes fulfill the needs of many people, another way in which carers support people is by helping people in their own homes.

To make sure this can continue, there is a need for community care assistants.

Like other areas of care though, staffing is in short supply.

Ian Wilson, the owner of Workington-based provider Bellcare, explained: “Everybody would like to be paid more, I would like to be able to pay them more but we are limited by what we get paid by government and local councils. We pass on as much as that as we can but we need to run a business at the end of the day.”


Various changes are being brought by the governments in both Westminster and Holyrood which may address some of these issues.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said:“Care staff are working incredibly hard and we are doing everything we can to support them – including providing a £462.5m workforce recruitment and retention fund.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have made more than £2.9bn available in specific funding for adult social care.

“The government is investing at least £500m in training to support the care workforce as part of the £5.4bn to reform social care.”

Minister for Social Care in the Scottish Government Kevin Stewart said: “The Scottish Government is well aware of the need to improve recruitment and retention in social care. That is why we have announced and funded two pay rises in the past few months.

“We have made available additional funding of up to £48 million to enable employers to provide an uplift to the hourly rate of pay for staff offering direct care within Adult Social Care to a minimum £10.02 per hour from the 1 December 2021. This takes pay for adult social care workers in Scotland significantly higher than the National Living Wage of £8.91 – which currently applies to many social care workers in England and Wales – and we are planning an even bigger rise to £10.50 per hour in the financial year 2022-23.

“There is still more to do. Fair work has to be at the heart of the agenda, and it will be as part of our proposals to establish a National Care Service to ensure everyone gets the high quality care they are entitled to, regardless of where they live in Scotland.

“However we are not waiting to act to protect and enhance Scotland’s social care services, which we know are facing intense pressure at present. That is why we invested £300 million of new winter pressures funding in October, to maximise the capacity of the NHS and social care system this winter and in particular to bolster the caring workforce by increasing their numbers, providing them with additional support.

“We continue to work in partnership with Local Authority and social care employers across Scotland to offer support and understand what other national recruitment activity will help. This includes our pilot scheme to pay for some of the costs for new employees, covering Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) checks and Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) registration for those taking up new roles in direct Social care, which runs until 31 March”