Wage increase has helped to tackle shortage of care workers in Northumberland

A wage increase and an uplift in mileage rates has helped Northumberland County Council tackle a shortage in care workers.
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The council’s director of adult social care, Neil Bradley, said that while work still needed to be done, significant progress had been made in tackling the issue, particularly with regards to domiciliary care workers.

In January, the council launched a scheme to boost homecare worker pay, incuding a minimum income for most home care work of £12.54 an hour – higher than either the National Living Wage or the Real Living Wage.

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Staff are also paid for all the time when they are doing care work, including time spent travelling between visits.

County Hall in Morpeth.County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

Mr Bradley was responding to questions on the council’s self assessment of its social care services.

The self-assessment has been developed ahead of an inspection of the services provided by the local authority by social care watchdog the CQC.

Cllr Jeff Watson, the council’s cabinet member for healthy lives, asked: “One thing that, if I was to say about our services that worries me is the staff shortages and the unavailability of the type of people that we want to meet our requirements.

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“Is that something that is going to show through? Are we going to be knocked back?”

Mr Bradley replied: “What we will be able to show CQC is a strong trajectory in trying to manage that problem. Eighteen months ago we had 270 in Northumberland who needed domiciliary care in Northumberland that we couldn’t provide for.

“As of last week, that was down to 35. Wage increases, a mileage increase clearly made a difference.

“I don’t think any local authority could say it has solved that problem, but I think we can show we’re on a good trajectory. I think we have got a good story to tell – but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

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Key issues raised in the self assessment included Northumberland’s ageing population, with the number of people aged 85 and over projected to increase by 80% by 2043.

Access to care and support is more limited in rural communities, with particular issues recruiting homecare workers. Furthermore, the number of people with complex needs is rising due to advances in medical care.