Tory council stands up to government over care staff funding crisis in West Northamptonshire
"We desperately need to recruit quickly and boost current pay offer," says cabinet member
Conservative-controlled West Northamptonshire Council is standing up to the Tory government again — this time over staff shortages in the care sector.
Cabinet member Matt Golby says the council fully supports NHS hospital chiefs' calls for more funding to urgently attract care workers.
Last month the council wrote to Downing Street begging ministers, unsuccessfully, to abort removal of the £20-a-month Universal Credit uplift.
Northampton General Hospital CEO Heidi Smoult warned earlier this week that volunteers and firefighters could be needed to prevent gaps in care services leading to a log-jam in hospital beds this winter.
In a joint statement issued with council chief executive Anna Earnshaw, Ms Smoult said: "We are calling for immediate and sustained funding from central government to enable us to recruit and bolster the care workforce.
"We need to attract workers with competitive salaries and offer proper remuneration for the caring, sensitive and challenging work they do and as our ageing population grows."
Cllr Golby, the former Northamptonshire County Council leader and now West Northants' portfolio holder for Adult Care, Wellbeing and Health Integration, says a 'winter workforce' could be recruited to plug the gaps.
He said: "I fully support Anna Earnshaw and our health care colleagues in their call for more funding to urgently attract care workers to the profession and to boost the current care workers pay offer.
"We desperately need to recruit quickly to the sector but, in the meantime, I encourage anyone who thinks they could help out to come forward, even if it’s just as part of a 'winter workforce'.
"We will also need communities to continue to be the pillar of support they have been through the pandemic and I urge families to do everything they can to ensure their loved ones stay safe in their own homes and are checked regularly.
"If they do need to come to hospital for treatment then we will also need their help to get their loved one's safely back home."
A report by MPs earlier this year revealed that 149,000 workers had quit the care sector nationally leaving up to 17 percent of jobs vacant.
The situation will get worse next month when around 750 care workers will be disqualified from working in the sector by government rules requiring them to be fully vaccinated.
Health secretary Sajid Javid has refused to budge over the new rules, claiming new recruits will make up the extra shortfall.
Data from charity Skills for Care showed 900 people employed in direct care — carers, senior carers, and support and outreach workers — by public sector organisations across Northamptonshire during 2019-20 were paid an average of £9.62 an hour, the lowest in the country.
Workers in the independent sector earned even less, £8.80 an hour.
West Northamptonshire's Conservative group unanimously backed a Labour motion last month calling for the Universal Credit uplift to continue.
Payments were topped up with an extra £20 a month to support vulnerable people through the Covid crisis.