Headlines: June 11th, 2001

Care and support for older and disabled people could collapse unless the Government allocates at least 700 million pounds extra to social services each year, a King’s Fund inquiry has concluded. The inquiry report, Future Imperfect? shows that Britain’sestimated one million care and support workers exist on low pay, with poor training, inadequate support from their managers and too little time to care. The report warns that without urgent improvements, care and support services could face a recruitment and retention crisis as bad as the NHS’s current problems in nursing and medicine.The inquiry found that commissioning bodies displayed a damaging preoccupation with containing costs rather than promoting quality in care services and a workforce of which two-thirds do not hold a relevant qualification and earn around 5 pounds per hour. It also revealed high levels of staff turnover and inadequate education and training for care and support workers, both before qualification and during their working lives.

The report makes 15 key recommendations for immediate action to tackle the problems that the inquiry uncovered and avert a future crisis in care and support services. They include increasing the cash allocations that social services have been promised by the Treasury, to match rate of increase in funding pledged for the NHS. There is also a recommendation for a fundamental review of the National Vocational Qualification in care work along with action to ensure that existing care and support workers get access to the training they need.