As with much of the public sector, social care had been facing staffing issues long before the first national lockdown in March of 2020. The undeniable impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on social care only served to further emphasise this issue and its impact on staff. The care sector union, UNISON has conducted a survey that confirms the stress this situation is putting on social care staff, and further points to a failure within government to deal with the crisis.
A recent survey by UNISON has found that many care workers have suffered a decline in their mental health due problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during the pandemic. The majority of those who stated this decline in the survey confirmed that their work had contributed to the difficulties they had experienced.
UNISON are warning of serious risk to the health of their staff due to shortages across the care sector that are ‘piling on the pressure’. This staffing crisis is being further exacerbated by the potentially huge number of workers leaving their jobs due to the compulsory vaccination rule or ‘no jab, no job’ law, that came into effect on the 16th of September. UNISON had previously called for this rule to be overturned, calling it ‘draconian’.
Vaccine rule and staff shortages, UNISON says, will leave the government ‘sleepwalking into a disaster’.
The expected mass exodus, as well as ongoing recruitment problems due to low pay, Brexit and increased employee competition is resulting in unimaginable pressure on those care workers who do remain.
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The recent UNISON survey involved more than 4,000 staff who are currently working in care homes or delivering care in the community across the UK, and found that over 85% have been experiencing PTSD, anxiety, depression, sleeping difficulties and an unhealthy work/life balance where they are unable to leave work behind.
In response to this, UNISON is calling for an immediate increase in funding and support for care workers’ wellbeing
This funding would be put towards mental health resources and helping to aid staff who are recovering from the fall-out of the pandemic. Unison general secretary, Christina McAnea has said:
“Care workers have been through the mill these past 18 months. They have seen dozens of people they look after either fall seriously ill or die. They’ve been terrified about becoming sick themselves or taking the virus home to their families. Many have struggled financially because of the absence of proper sick pay.”
McAnea calls on immediate action and emphasises that while “the government’s commitment to funding mental health support is welcome…help is needed now, not at some unknown point in the future.”
Finally, UNISON included multiple quotes from survey participants in their press release, many of which truly exemplify the stress and strain those working in the care sector have been under. One participant shared this devastating comment:
“I have lots of anxiety about the future. I’ve had Covid and am back to work, but I’m not feeling 100%. I’m finding things tough. I don’t want to let my team down, so I’m just soldiering on. Morale at work is the worst it has ever been. Staff are leaving. It’s such a worry.”