Councillors call for swift Government action to deal with social care staffing ‘crisis’

East Riding councillors have backed calls for immediate Government action on the staffing “crisis” in social care and reversing cuts to Universal Credit.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 3:15 pm
Cllr Jonathan Owen, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said staff shortages and ongoing funding pressures had left the authority unable to provide 3,000 hours of home care a week.

Councillors passed two motions at the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s full meeting yesterday (Wednesday, October 6) calling on the authority to lobby ministers for action on both issues.

Cllr Jonathan Owen, Conservative leader of East Riding Council, said staff shortages and ongoing funding pressures had left the authority unable to provide 3,000 hours of home care a week.

Liberal Democrat opposition leader Cllr David Nolan said yesterday’s £20 a week coronavirus Universal Credit uplift scrapping would leave around 51,500 people in Hull and the East Riding choosing between “heating and feeding”.

The motions came as councillors also discussed cuts to bus services and backed looking into creating a Tenants Champion to represent renters in housing associations.

Cllr Denis Healy, Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said ongoing driver shortages were seeing bus routes axed across the East Riding, including the “lifeline” 122 Molescroft to Hull service.

A motion from Liberal Democrat Cllr Linda Johnson calling for more 20mph limits on residential roads was rejected.

The meeting also saw Conservative Cllr Ben Weeks call for greater awareness of children’s mental health, urging parents and residents to spot the signs of conditions.

He said his call came after the charity Mind found the chances of children developing conditions had risen by 50 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

Cllr Owen said changes in ministerial positions had held up Hull and the East Riding’s joint devolution bid and “all options” remained on the table, including a non-mayoral County Deal.

He was responding to a question from Cllr Nolan who claimed plans for a joint mayor should be “dead in the water”.

The leader also said air quality in the East Riding was good overall but work continued to cut emissions further while the area’s car ownership was higher than national averages.

Cllr Owen said he had no objections to a new link roads study in South West Holderness, depending on funding, in response to Conservative ward member Cllr David Winter’s question. 

Cllr Owen said a national recruitment drive was needed to get more workers into the social care sector.

He added most of the recently announced extra funding for health would go to the NHS while social care would not see any in the short term.

The leader said: “Funding social care is a thorny issue that’s been avoided by consecutive governments for decades, but it’s now reaching crisis point.

“Social care provision makes up a large proportion of this council’s budget, as it does at other local authorities.

“Hopefully, for many people social care is a service they never have to use, but with an ageing population more and more will.

“During the pandemic the focus has been on supporting the NHS while carers have been taken for granted.

“And now we’re seeing fierce competition to fill vacancies, in North Yorkshire for example there’s an average of 1,000 vacancies at any one time while there’s been a 70 per cent drop in applications.

“Established care providers have never seen this before and a lot of care workers are leaving for easier and better paying jobs elsewhere.

“The government’s proposed social care reforms will leave people with more of their own money because of changes to the support cap, but we might find there’s no one there to do the work in the worst case scenario.”

Cllr Nolan said the Universal Credit uplift cut would unleash “a lot of misery and pain” on East Riding residents.

His motion called on the council to write to Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to “look again” at the cut.

The Liberal Democrat leader said: “Today marks a very sad day for 4.4m households who will see their incomes fall by around £1,000 a year overnight.

“It will take benefit levels to their lowest levels since 1990.

“It comes as we’re seeing sharp rises in fuel and grocery prices, residents are being forced to choose between heating and feeding.

“The government’s recent announcement of its £500m hardship fund shows they recognise there’s a problem.

“But they’re not going far enough to deal with it and councils will have to administer a means tested scheme.

“At the same time as the uplift is cut the government is also ending furlough.

“It’s going to cause major problems, it’s a disgrace.”

Article by Joe Gerrard (Local Democracy Reporting Service)