Councils in South West Wales have been urged to improve the careers conditions of the large number of domiciliary workers in Wales.
The region faces an increasing demand for these services from a greying population.
For example, Carmarthenshire Council’s in-house domiciliary care team carried out 202,911 visits to residents in 2013-14 and 199,445 in 2015-16.
But the number of care visits by external providers escalated rapidly in those years from 698,797 to 961,022.
Meanwhile, evidence indicates that the number of residents aged over 85 will double in the next two decades, while dementia sufferers will increase by nearly two-thirds.
Neil Ayling, the president of Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru, indicated that many carers are moving into other professions due to derisory pay, poor working conditions and the pressure of the job.
“A lot of people are leaving to work in retail and in light industry. They’re paid better, the hours often suit (better) and it’s less stressful. If a big supermarket opens in a rural community, homecare agencies will come to us because all of their staff have left. We need to work across the country to ask how we can help in terms of financing and how we can make a career in health and social care attractive to people.”
Ayling also indicated that the recent decision regarding the British exit from the European Union could create significant risk for health and social care.
“We have many people working in social care (who) come from other parts of Europe — as we do for many industries — so if there were significant changes that restricted European workers, we would undoubtedly struggle even more.”
The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Sarah Rochira, believes that social care “must be seen as a profession of key strategic importance”, and that this is is certainly is not the case at present.
“It is essential that domiciliary care services are properly resourced and managed to ensure that carers have the time they need, as well as the support and training, to deliver the best possible quality of care to older people at all times that is focused on their individual needs.”
The picture in Wales is reflected across the rest of the United Kingdom, with social care being equally troubled in England and Scotland.
Of all areas of the ailing health service, it is arguable that social care faces the greatest difficulties, with massive underfunding being combined with demographics which indicate much greater resources will need to be devoted to social care in the coming years and decades.
Commenting on the issue, a spokeswoman for the Welsh government defended the record of the administration, and outlined some of the measures which have been taken to improve the social care situation in Wales.
“We work with the sector looking at the pressures and opportunities impinging on social care, including domiciliary care. We have commissioned the Care Council for Wales to lead a review of the domiciliary care sector and develop a five-year strategy to take the sector confidently into the future.”