Front cover of the CQC's State of care report

As we near the end of one of the most tumultuous years the care sector has ever experienced, two highly anticipated reports from the Care Quality Commission and Skills for Care lay bare the current challenges home care providers face.

State of Care, an annual assessment of health and social care across England from the CQC, highlights how damaging the pandemic has been for those that use health and social care services – with many people struggling to get the care they need or simply not seeking care or treatment as a result of COVID-19.

The strain on carers has also been particularly significant, with data from Carers UK suggesting an additional 4.5 million people had become unpaid carers since the pandemic required, and 81% of existing unpaid carers saying they’d increased the amount of care they have given loved ones.

Culturally appropriate care, which was the subject of recent guidance, was also emphasised in the report – with the CQC stressing the importance of adult social care staff being alert and responsive to people’s beliefs or conventions – especially to those that have had less contact with people that understand and affirm their culture.

And staffing shortages, along with the long-term impacts of emotional and physical exhaustion – are set to continue to raise further concerns throughout the sector.

Workforce data from Skills for Care’s The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England showed that while vacancy rates fell during the start of the pandemic, since May 2021, vacancy rates have steadily risen, and are now back to pre-pandemic levels.

Worryingly cases of staff sickness nearly doubled throughout the pandemic (an average of 9.5 days lost were lost to sickness in 2020/21 compared to 5.1 days before the pandemic).

But it’s not all bad news. While staff turnover rate of directly employed staff working in the adult social care sector was 28.5%, most leavers don’t leave the sector and employers with favourable workforce metrics (such as high levels of learning and development), on average, reported better outcomes (lower staff turnover and/or high CQC ratings).

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