Fife facing crippling adult social care crisis – unless action is taken
Fife is facing a crippling adult social care crisis over the coming months unless urgent action is taken, councillors have heard.
The worrying situation was laid bare in a new report to the region’s education and children’s services, health and social care scrutiny committee on Tuesday which highlighted a ‘perfect storm’ of issues putting strain on staffing and resources across the sector - whether services are provided directly by Fife Council or via third sector or independent partners.
In her update, Nicky Connor, chief officer of the Fife health and social care partnership, revealed that not only has Covid-19 put “unprecendented pressure” on adult social care locally, but services are also struggling to balance a shortfall in workforce through inflated absence rates - with some care homes reporting more than a quarter of staff off work - as well as higher than average levels of vacancies and difficulties in recruitment.
Perhaps more worryingly, private providers - accounting for some 85% of all care home support and around 50% of all care at home in the region - have also warned that their ability to cope has actually been compromised by Fife Council and NHS Fife attracting staff to work for them, leaving them short.
Audrey Mcfarlane, director of Oran Care, revealed that 14 members of staff in the last three months had left her company to work for local authorities, and that led to 15 care packages having to be “handed back” to Fife Council last month - simply because there wasn’t enough staff.
“That’s something we’ve never had to do before,” she stressed.
“Recruitment and retention has always been challenging and employees have always been attracted to working with local authorities.
“But we’ve never experienced anything quite as dramatic as we have in the last two or three months.”
Her views were echoed by Paul Dundas, from independent care group Scottish Care, who said Scotland is facing a “workforce crisis”.
“We know the demand is there, it’s about how we can work in partnership in addressing some of the considerable challenges,” he added.
Employee surveys suggest staff are moving employers to achieve better terms and conditions or retiring earlier than previously planned.
People exiting the workforce also cited high levels of scrutiny from regulatory bodies and poor pay as reasons for leaving.
Ms Connor revealed that efforts are ongoing to tackle some of the problems experienced, with Fife receiving around £8.5m of a £300m Scottish Government package designed to invest in new staff and resources and help local authorities take specific interventions to improve planned discharge from hospital.
Around 40 interim care beds will be block booked over the next 18 weeks to give care providers with some security over the winter period, while there will be an uplift to the minimum hourly rate for social care staff offering direct care from £9.50 to £10.02 per hour from early next month.
However, Mr Dundas noted: “Within the sector that really hasn’t gone far enough and wouldn’t make any difference for employers to attract an uplift in their staffing levels.”
A new Care at Home Collaborative group is due to hold its first meeting tomorrow in a bid to tackle some of the pressing issues , and the partnership is also refreshing its workforce strategy for publication in March.