'Major risk' of carers shortage this winter

Norfolk County Council has a Winter Plan for social care.

Officers at Norfolk County Council warn of an "unprecedented challenge" this winter. - Credit: PA

A social care staff shortage could be a "major risk" this winter amid an "unprecedented challenge" to get support for Norfolk's most vulnerable people, council bosses have warned.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Norfolk County Council's adult social care services had been under pressure, with a growing older population with increasingly complex needs.

But Covid-19 has intensified that and officers at County Hall are hoping an "ambitious recruitment campaign" will head off the risk of shortages - at a time when social care support is so vital.

From April to October, Norfolk's front line social care services received 20,279 calls requesting help.

Officers say "unprecedented demand for support" continues to rise, with 9,400 more asking for help than four years ago.

Winter is a time when demand leaps again, so County Hall officers have devised a plan to focus "limited resources" where needed most.

The report on the Winter Plan, to be presented to the Conservative-controlled cabinet on Monday (December 26), states: "As we head into winter with an already pressured position across the Norfolk wide system, this winter will prove challenging for all stakeholders."

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Part of the plan is to extend capacity to support people at home, or, where appropriate, in short-term residential care homes.

Perfect storm of issues could hit social care in Norfolk this winter

Plans to speed up discharges from Norfolk's hospitals have been devised. - Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire.

Contracts with companies which offer home support could be extended, to get more people discharged from hospital back home.

The plan also pledges support for care providers and strong links between with discharge hubs at Norfolk's three hospitals.

James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at Norfolk County Council.

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

James Bullion, director of adult social care at Norfolk County Council previously issued recruitment plea amid concerns over a Christmas care 'cliff edge'.

On any one day there are 14,000 vacancies across the care sector and the pandemic means they are increasingly having to compete with the hospitality and retail sector to attract staff.

The report states: "A major risk we face during this winter is a staff shortage. With critical funding from government, we are working on an ambitious recruitment campaign."

The council is also looking to establish new mental health step down services and five additional mental health residential care discharge beds.

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