Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, says social care plays a massive role in enabling the health service to function but the staff emergency in social care meant that hospitals were unable to discharge patients back into the community – either to their own homes or into care homes.
He says it is essential to find a long-term solution but in the meantime Care Forum Wales is calling for extra funding to provide retention payments for staff to provide a sticking plaster over the winter months.
The root of the problem Mr Kreft says, is chronic underfunding of social care both by local health boards and county councils. Fees are calculated using a formula which often determined the pay rates of the staff working in social care.
He said: “The social care sector was very fragile going into this pandemic and one thing that we can learn is how we can ensure we have a very strong sector going forward. We need to ensure the people who work in social care and the people they care for have a great deal more consideration.
“It is the case in the early days of the pandemic that social care was an also ran and the focus was the NHS and we paid the price for that.
“I am seeing some very positive actions coming out of the Welsh Government and one of the key elements is how we respect our social care workers and how we respect social care.
“We’ve got to level up social care to be on a par with the NHS. The health system and the social care system shouldn’t be working separately.There should be an efficient, integrated system in which health and social care dovetail with each other to deliver services.
“When the pandemic started two years ago, everything was concentrated on ensuring the NHS did not fall over. People did not think enough about social care but thankfully that has now changed but we have to do a lot more.
“We have health boards across Wales recruiting social care staff with offers of higher pay. The shortage of staff is the worst crisis that domiciliary care and care homes have seen in living memory.”
“We have thousands of job vacancies in social care in Wales and as result we’re seeing people in hospital who can’t be discharged to their own homes because there aren’t enough domiciliary care workers .”