Government needs to improve Care Workforce Pathway attractive to employers, sector says

Both the Local Government Association and Care England have expressed reservations about the government’s draft Care Workforce Pathway

6th June 2023 about a 4 minute read
“The adult social care workforce needs to be seen for what it is – an exciting, challenging, professional career and we have to ensure that staff are remunerated accordingly. But action is required from the centre and this action is required now.” Martin Green, chief executive, Care England

The government’s new Care Workforce Pathway has come under criticism from both the Local Government Association (LGA) and Care England.

The consultation period on the pathway closed last week, on 31 May. The pathway, which is being developed by the Department of Health and Social Care, aims to set out a clear career structure for the care workforce.

The LGA has said that the government must make it more attractive to employers if it wants to secure their “will and efforts.”

In a response to the consultation, the LGA, which represents local authorities, said the government needs to do “more work on how the framework works for employers”.

It argues that there is “not enough focus on the benefits for employers,” although it accepts that the government is right not to make the pathway mandatory. It also says that the career progression of care workers needs to be linked to pay progression. One barrier identified by the LGA is that many carers have to train in their own time, rather than on paid time – and even if training is possible during work hours, it must be backed by a carer’s employer.

The LGA’s response said that “for an employer to want to absorb extra costs…there will need to be obvious benefits for employers from the framework” or alternatively “some additional funding”.

Pathway will be ‘overlooked’ if not adequately funded

It also expressed concern that the training infrastructure to meet the pathway’s requirements was not yet in place. “There needs to be an exercise to map education and training to help employers and employees use the framework,” its response said. Cathie Williams, joint chief executive of the Association for Directors of Adults Social Services (Adass) expressed similar concerns about the pathway: “There are three key things needed to make this work. The first is that it is fully funded, with support for paying people working in care a fair wage on par with workers in the NHS with similar experience and skills, as well as funding for staff training.”

She added that the pathway must include all the professional care workforce including social workers and occupational therapists and not just healthcare professionals. It should also be “alongside the NHS to ensure more qualifications offered to health and care staff have a common base, so that people can use them to progress their career in both health and social care and other related roles.”

In its response to the consultation, Care England, which represents independent providers of adult social care, said that the pathway will “inevitably be overlooked” if it is not adequately funded.

It also said that if there are additional costs associated with the new pathway, providers could be reluctant to participate and “success may be limited”.

Introducing “unfunded training” will only “further cripple the sector”, especially in light of “historic underfunding,” Care England’s response said. The linear nature of the pathway could present challenges, it added, as not all care workers will be suited to this style of progression.

‘First step’ to a ‘new reality’

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, said: “We hope this is the first step to imposing a new reality as an increasing cohort of individuals receiving adult social care services have been supported through a decreasing government funding pot.”

He added that there had been a cut to the promised budget for adult social care workforce reform from £500m to £250m. “The adult social care workforce needs to be seen for what it is – an exciting, challenging, professional career and we have to ensure that staff are remunerated accordingly. But action is required from the centre and this action is required now.”

Green said that the problems in social care could not be addressed without adequate funding: “Chronic underfunding of the adult social care sector remains the root cause of the pressures facing the social care sector. Whilst the workforce is our most valuable asset, building a skilled workforce to meet the increasing needs of an ageing population simply will not happen without government funding to appropriately remunerate the workforce. Despite the positives the Care Workforce Pathway looks to offer, they will inevitably be overlooked by those inside and outside the sector if appropriate funding to increase care worker pay is not addressed.”

FCC Insight

Social care’s shortfall of staff is a problem that will worsen as the population continues to age. Figures suggest that, by 2030, the sector will need an extra 600,000 workers. Because social care is beset by problems of recruitment and retention, the government’s publication of a draft care pathway is a positive step in the right direction, and could help to make social care a more attractive career. We agree, however, with both the LGA and Care England that the sector’s major problem is underfunding: employers need the resources to train care staff and to offer full remuneration as they climb the career ladder. Without that funding, it seems unlikely that the Care Workforce Pathway will have the hoped-for impact.