Social care staff in Wales ‘stretched to a point never seen before’ as pressure continues
Wales’ leading director of social services warns the country is “firefighting” to ensure that the care system in the country is able to continue amid coronavirus pressures.
Welsh care workers are "exhausted” and are stretched more now than at any other point, Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru President Nicola Stubbins has warned.
Ms Stubbins, also the director of social services in Denbighshire, warned that staff shortages as a result of more social care workers needing to self-isolate amid rising infection levels has resulted in occasions when there had not been enough staff to provide care.
"I know of examples in my own authority and across Wales where [senior] officers have stepped in to take on different roles. They've rolled up their sleeves, literally, and staffed care homes and other services to keep people safe," Stubbins told the BBC.
"We are literally managing day-by-day because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. We're constantly firefighting.
"There's no time to stop, think and try and plan ahead and that's really, really difficult."
Ms Stubbins’ comments came as the UK Government announced a new initiative to urgently fill short-term roles within the adult social care sector to help alleviate pressures on care providers across the country.
But the reliance on the health and social care sectors as “keyworkers” throughout the pandemic has seen the Government face questions surrounding the state of earnings for care workers.
The adult social care sector accounts for around 6% of total employment in Wales with over 72,000 jobs, with about 25% of those being domiciliary care roles.
Most care workers in Wales are on the minimum wage of £8.72 an hour for those aged over 25, with a report from Cardiff University in August 2020 that found that less than half of social care workers earn the ‘real living wage’ of £9.30 an hour.
In 2016, the average annual earnings for those in the adult social care sector in Wales was estimated to be £16,900, compared to the average of £29,200 for all other industries.
Stubbins said the that the NHS would "grind to a halt" without those social care workers on the frontline that work to ensure hospital admissions remained as low as possible, as well as supporting people to leave return from hospital safely.
"Social care staff are stretched now to a point I've never seen before and at this moment in time, stretched far more than any point during this entire pandemic,” she continued.
"They are exhausted, but they keep going.
"The pressures of being able to maintain service delivery is becoming more and more challenging and with certain aspects we are only able to cover some critical services - that isn't anything that anybody ever came into this job to do, to have to choose between who you may or may not be able to help."