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Devon inquiry into social care

Tuesday, November 30th, 2021 3:06pm

By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

Devon is to discuss social care (courtesy: Jack Finnigan/Unsplash)

Hopes for 'catalyst for change'

An inquiry into the shortage of social care staff in Devon could be a “catalyst for change.”

Around two-thousand adult social care vacancies remain unfilled across the county, with the councillor responsible warning that “there simply aren’t enough people coming forward.”

Health leaders, care providers, local political leaders and more, will get together in Exeter on Friday [3 December] to hear the first-hand experiences of care workers and their employers to discuss potential improvements to help address the shortage of workers.

The ‘appreciative inquiry’, which will also celebrate the work being done by the 30,000 care workers in Devon, comes as the county council warned that care firms are finding it increasingly difficult to meet demand, with some even handing back cases because they are unable to fulfil them.

People are having to wait longer for care, and those already receiving it are seeing changes to home visits because care providers are having to juggle increasing caseloads.

Councillor James McInnes (Conservative, Hatherleigh & Chagford), cabinet member for adult social care, suggests there needs to be a cultural change on how the profession is viewed. He said:  “I think the NHS has been absolutely brilliant through the pandemic and everybody recognises that, but the other side of the equation is how brilliant those in adult social care have been.

“People have been going into people’s homes to support them and have been supporting people in old people’s homes etc – and we need to rebalance. We need to be congratulating the whole system and those people that work in adult social care really do need to be appreciated just as much as those who work in the NHS.”

Following the inquiry, Cllr McInnes said the council plans to work with Devon’s MPs to change the national mood on the issue, adding the government is “still reluctant to put those in adult social care on an equal footing in terms of their importance, and you can’t talk about the NHS without talking about adult social care.”

He accepts wages need to go up, along with “changing the dynamics” in the industry – such as more training to produce a better-qualified workforce and to enable more people to view social care as a long-term career.

“For far too long in this country we’ve looked on people who work in adult social care as poorly paid – often a stopgap situation until [they] find something else to do. Now that is not right, it’s a profession in its own right.”

But Cllr McInnes, who’s also the deputy leader of the county council warned: “It is going to be difficult. This isn’t just issuing a press release and do a few interviews and everything’s going to change. This is going to be a cultural change that’s actually going to take place over a number of years.”

He disagrees with the suggestion that the council could take some services in-house if the care providers continue to struggle to fill vacancies: “We haven’t got a magic bunker of people we can suddenly get out to do these jobs, we’re in the same position as everyone else.”

The appreciative inquiry will be live-streamed on Friday 3 December from 9:30 a.m.

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