National Care Service - adult social care workforce: evidence

This paper summarises the available evidence on the adult social care workforce in Scotland. It is part of a collection of contextual evidence papers, setting out key sources of information about social care and related areas in Scotland.

3. Impacts of Covid-19 and Brexit

This section examines the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the response to it (e.g. measures implemented to curtail the spread of the virus) and of Brexit on the adult social care workforce in Scotland.

3.1 Impacts of Covid-19

As noted in The Independent Review of Social Care in Scotland, Covid-19 highlighted and intensified existing challenges facing the adult social care sector, including workforce issues[6].

Covid-19 had a large impact on the working hours and patterns of social care staff. In the first six months of the pandemic, the number of hours of homecare support reduced in Scotland. According to a Scottish Parliament survey on How has Covid-19 impacted on care and support at home in Scotland?, the total reduction of care for those responding ranged from 30 minutes to 61 hours per week per person supported, with an average reduction of 20.5 hours per week. The same source indicates that the main reason for reduction in care provided from a staff perspective was ‘safety’, as there was a need to spend minimal time in people's homes to ensure everybody was safe. Some people chose to suspend care and support in order to protect themselves from the virus by preventing carers from entering their household. Others chose to access care from friends and family, which resulted in reduced and cancelled care packages with the providers not being able to claim sustainability payments at that time. Moreover, during the first six months of the pandemic, as a result of emergency legislation, home care operated on critical and substantial needs. As critical care occurred mostly in the morning and evening, staff ended up having to work split or shorter shifts and this required flexibility.

While the number of care hours reduced, workload increased due to staff absence (e.g. for health reasons) which led to additional pressure on existing staff. Furthermore, additional workload came from training (such as infection control and use of personal protective equipment), increased staff meetings and by completing risk assessments or reports to senior management.[7]

In Working in a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic: How has the pandemic changed working practices? it is noted that care home staff roles have changed significantly and unexpectedly during the pandemic. This is associated with stress, burnout, fear and uncertainty, and has been exacerbated by staff shortages[8].

3.2 Impacts of Brexit

According to the 2018 report, EU workers in Scotland's social care workforce: contribution assessment, an estimated 5.6% of the adult social care and childcare workforce in Scotland were non-UK nationals, which is approximately 9,830 workers. In nursing agencies the percentage was even higher at 16.5%. This study found that more than half (51.7%) of managers who had tried to recruit nursing and midwifery council (NMC) registered nurses, and over two in five (44.2%) who had tried to recruit care staff or practitioners over the previous 12 months had found the procedure more difficult in comparison to the year before. As Brexit impacts on EU nationals’ ability to come to the UK or to stay, this could have a knock on effect on recruitment in the adult social care sector in Scotland[9].



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