Southend social care budget increased due to shortage of care workers

A shortage of care workers in Southend, plus a rising number of people who need home care, has forced council bosses to add £5.5 million to next year’s social care budget.

The shortage of staff has led to care companies handing contracts back to Southend Council.

This has left the council “working round the clock” to provide home care for vulnerable people, and an extra £1.3 million has been set aside to give domiciliary care staff providers a 15 per cent pay rise, from £17 to £19 per hour.

Council leader Ian Gilbert said: “There is a problem in terms of staffing. We are not talking about directly employed council staff.

We’re talking about care providers who we work with.

“Over the course of the last few months, and prior to that, care providers (have) handed back packages because they are not being able to fulfill care and they are not coming forward with the increase in numbers who need home care.

The primary reason for that is the difficulty in recruiting staff in the sector.”

“Our teams have been working round the clock to try to manage that situation and try to make sure essential care needs are met and that everybody is being kept safe.

That’s meant redeploying staff in some cases from other areas and reducing some activity that we would normally like to provide.”

Staffing issues have been compounded by a rise in the number of people needing care at home due to Covid, particularly those being released from hospital to free up beds.

The hourly rate is what the council pays providers for the whole services, including administration.

It is up to individual agencies to pass on an increase to staff.

Mr Gilbert added: “We are going to be working to ensure that increase is not pocketed by care providers but actually passed on to those people who are providing front line care.”

Mr Gilbert dismissed the idea that vaccination of staff under a Government ruling was a problem.

He said: “I’m not aware that issue has had a significant impact in Southend yet but certainly people are getting Covid or just having to isolate has been a huge problem but people have to take extra care when they are going into the homes of vulnerable people.

The council’s draft budget proposes increasing council tax by 3.99 percent, with two per cent of this going on adult social care.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter