Care sector where workers are paid less than fruit pickers “unsustainable”

Care workers providing a vital service by caring for adults in their homes can earn more money “picking pears”, a council chief has said amid concerns about the future of the care market.

Essex County Council’s executive director for adult social care, Nick Presmeg, called for a unified workforce strategy between local authorities and the NHS to steady an “unsustainable” market in a council meeting today (September 15).

Mr Presmeg told the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board that the key to the stabilising the care market is to bring together hospital, community and mental health trusts, GPs and other primary care services with local authorities and other care providers under an integrated care system.

Workers poor pay is believed to be contributing to a turnover rate that is more than double the national average.

Speaking in the meeting, he said: “The care market is very stressed and very stretched – you can earn more money picking pears than you can providing domiciliary care.

“If you work 40 hours a week you will earn £17,000 and you will have travel costs. That is not sustainable.

“In terms of the skill base in the care market that is much misunderstood. Our residential and domiciliary care workers are often highly skilled and highly trained.

“They understand infection control, all the basics of first aid. They understand the basics of pressure sores and medication records.

“It is a skill set you would find in a hospital nursing assistant who will earn £10,000 to £15,000 a year more.”

Adult Social Care supports about 17,000 vulnerable Essex residents each year who need help with daily living tasks so that they can live as independently as possible.

However, Skills for Care estimated beteen 2019 and 2020 that the staff turnover rate – the number who leave in a year – in Essex was 32.8 per cent, which was similar to the region average of 32.9 per cent and similar to England, at 31.9 per cent.

It is that instability – especially given demand for adult social care is set to rise with Essex’s care population growing by a further 16 per cent by 2030 – that Mr Presmeg said needs addressing.

By 2025 , the county council wants “quality, choice and viability” of the care provider market across Essex.

A total of 42 integrated care systems, which bring together hospital, community and mental health trusts, GPs and other primary care services with local authorities and other care providers will cover the whole of England to improve the health of all residents, better support people living with multiple and long term conditions, preventing illness, tackling variation in care and delivering seamless services.

They bring together the NHS, local government and other organisations including The Voluntary Community and Social Enterprise (VSCE) sectors.

The Mid and South Essex Health and Care Partnership has been working towards the milestone for the last four years in a bid to strengthen local relationships and improve patient care.

Mr Presmeg added: “We need a unified workforce strategy which we will deliver in partnership with our colleagues in the NHS.

“We are working towards that in our integrated care system.

“And I think that is one of the key platforms of integrated health and social care.

“I don’t believe there is a great deal we can do to increase the skill base of the care and domiciliary care market.

“We need to stabilise the market and then think how we generate supply and probably we need to generate solutions that rely on less hands-on support and better use of tele care and more integrated roles.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter