According to an All-Party Parliamentary Group Report on Social Care, millions of OAPs in need of care are at the mercy of an unlicensed and unskilled workforce, a damning inquiry has found. Experts fear as many as 500,000 people pass themselves off as trained care workers after advertising their services online. Many professional care workers and providers offer excellent services but experts are worried at a growing number in a "grey area" who have no training or qualifications and work cash in hand.
Disturbing new evidence suggests an increasing number are easily able to find work because the industry is unregulated. It means the vulnerable with complex health needs, many living at home, are wide open to abuse. The shocking findings have prompted the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Care to launch an urgent investigation. It is set to make a host of recommendations to overhaul the broken system within months. Labour MP and co-chair Louise Haigh said: "I hadn't realised how unqualified some of the workforce looking after our most vulnerable were. "The system that has been created encourages bad employers and creates a huge amount of risk for staff and the people who are being cared for.
No compulsory registration scheme
"It is inevitable we will have scandal after scandal while we are underfunding, undervaluing and underpaying the system and the workforce. This is a national emergency."
The APPG, set up to examine the social care system, its funding and staffing, has found a sector in crisis.
It was appalled to learn there is no compulsory register or industry-recognised minimum standard qualification for those tasked with administering life-saving care to seriously ill patients. Training and development are largely at the discretion of individual providers with some care workers telling how they were expected to look after pensioners with complicated conditions after just two half days of training, which had no first aid.
"There is partial registration of care workers in all devolved nations, but in England, the free-for-all has been described as a "recipe for disaster".
National Association of Care and Support Workers
Karolina Gerlich, the chief executive of the professional body the National Association of Care and Support Workers, said: "I have seen care jobs advertised with no legal requirement for registration.
"I have seen people with live-in housekeepers who double up as carers. They have never trained in care and, despite good intentions, lack the skills and knowledge to deliver care well.
"This means that there is a huge potential for abuse. At the moment care workers that do not perform well are able to just move to the next provider. There is no way of tracking or stopping them from working in the industry further.
"The decrease in care quality has been shown to come from understaffing and the workforce being overworked and undertrained. All of these problems can be improved by treating care work as a proper profession and giving care workers the tools other professions receive."
In evidence to the APPG, MPs were told how the Care Certificate - basic training for social care workers - is open to widespread abuse. The e-learning tool only requires carers to fill in answers that can be easily found online and for completed forms to be countersigned by a care manager.
But the certificate is not accredited, is hardly ever monitored and only half of the 1.5 million care workers, support workers, personal assistants and live-in carers do the training.
Reputable care workers demanded parity with other healthcare professionals, who are regulated and supported with training and continuous professional development, which they say would mean a consistent delivery of care, improved standards and staff who feel supported in their jobs.
There have also been urgent calls for the compulsory registration of those working in care homes, home care and supported living, as well as personal assistants and those who support people on direct payments, provide live-in care or are self-employed.
Recommendations under consideration by the APPG include the first national register for care workers with individuals forced to achieve set standards before being able to work.
Skills will be monitored with a digital passport available to all providers as employees move jobs. There are also calls for an independent body to oversee training and professional development with all carers placed on a national database. The APPG will make its recommendations to the Government in September.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group Report on Social Care provides evidence that reliance upon the Care Certificate may be putting the most vulnerable in our society at risk. The Care Certificate which is not accredited provides only basic training and yet it is claimed that only half of the workforce take part in the training which the group states is open to abuse. What we need is a national register for social care workers who have undertaken approved training along with proper pay for the recognition of the skilled work they do. This will raise the profile and value of social care workers and attract much needed workers to the industry.
Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy