Ministers launch TV ad campaign to tackle care worker shortage


Ministers have launched a three-week TV advertising blitz to recruit care workers, as a new mandatory Covid vaccination law takes effect that some operators warn could force out a quarter of their staff.

The campaign will run from Wednesday on ITV, Channel 4 and Sky to help fill 105,000 vacancies with people who embody “kindness, compassion and resilience”, said Sajid Javid, the health secretary.

The launch comes amid a staffing crisis in social care, with burnout, Brexit and low pay fuelling the exodus of staff and forcing care operators to cut their bed capacity. On Tuesday, the Homecare Association said some of its members have warned that the new requirement for frontline staff to have two Covid jabs, effective from 11 November, will reduce their staff rosters by over 25%.

Of 150 homecare providers surveyed, 90% thought recruitment would become harder and over 80% thought they would need to dismiss staff as a result. A quarter of homecare workers have still not had two doses of vaccine.

“This creates a serious risk that homecare will not be available for tens of thousands of older and disabled people who are wholly reliant on support,” said Dr Jane Townson, chief executive of the industry body.

With the hospitality industry and retailers including Amazon luring care workers with better wages, unions have argued a pay increase from the current £9.01 median hourly wage is needed to boost recruitment. Many care managers have also seen staff switch to the NHS.

The advertising campaign uses the slogan “made with care” and shows care workers taking people on trips to the seaside, exercising, swimming and getting dressed. A voiceover says: “There’s no better time to become a care worker”.

Recruitment is not just a short-term problem. An ageing population means 500,000 further new care staff will be needed by 2035.

“We are investing record amounts into social care making this an exciting time to join the workforce and play an important role in helping to develop a world-leading social care system as we bring forward our plans for reform later this year,” said care minister Gillian Keegan.

But the shadow care minister, Liz Kendall, said: “In the face of overwhelming staff shortages, social care needs a detailed plan to transform staff pay, training and terms and conditions more than this TV advertising drive. There will be no new money for social care from the government’s so-called levy for at least three years, and nothing in the budget except confirmation of a national insurance hike on the very frontline workers we need to recruit.”

Gavin Edwards, national officer for care at the trade union Unison, said: “If the government is serious about recruitment, its first move should be to ​ensure care workers ​get a decent pay rise. Any ad campaign pushing a job without sick pay, where poor treatment and exploitation are rife, will struggle ​to succeed.”

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