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Financial stress impacts on care workers’ mental well being

February 28, 2020

The Care Workers’ Charity has published a report called The beating heart of care: supporting care workers better. The report highlights that care workers are finding themselves in in-work poverty and worse, suffering from mental health issues due to their low paid and emotionally charged frontline roles as carers.

The four key issues negatively impacting on care workers’ ability to care, and the care sector’s ability to retain its staff, have been identified as: mental wellbeing; personal finances; caring responsibilities at home; and management and supervisor support.

Mental wellbeing was highlighted as the core issue for care workers, with almost 42% of the 215 care workers surveyed experiencing stress, and 27% reporting feeling anxious on a regular basis as a result of their work. Not having time to do their job well and experience of bereavement were highlighted as the main pressures.

While a sector-wide salary increase is not a silver bullet, low pay is a huge issue affecting the quality of life of care workers, their ability to cover the basics, and ability to save for the future.

The associated stress and instability of living without savings is clear from the individuals who contact The Care Workers’ Charity grant service for help. Since January 2017 the charity has awarded 859 grants worth £360,740 – making the average award £420. So far this year 348 grants have been awarded worth £128,683 – making an average award £370.

74% of people awarded a crisis grant in 2018 were dealing with a sudden or unexpected loss of income. Many of those were in rent arrears, resulting in around 10% of The Care Workers’ Charity grant expenditure used to prevent eviction.

And the knock-on effects for providers and those being cared for cannot be underestimated: 37% of those surveyed said they had taken time off for stress or poor mental health caused by their work. The average number of sick days per person in social care in 2017 was 25% above the UK average, at 5.1 days. Sickness absences increase the use of agency workers. This typically amplifies service costs and affects the quality and continuity of care that services can provide.

There is also a direct link between sick days and staff turnover. A Skills for Care report has shown that turnover is higher for employees who have taken more sick days, this undoubtedly leads to a reduction in the quality of care, says the Care Workers Charity.

“Driving improvement is hugely important, now, more than ever as we look at how to care for our ageing population,” said Sarah Hyman, head of operations at The Care Workers’ Charity.

“Effective services for care workers don’t just need to overcome the negative aspects of the role, they also need to enhance the positives. We need to focus on the areas where we can make tangible improvements to peoples’ lives. We really need to embrace a culture of wellbeing where our working environments become supportive and appreciative places to work. But the commitment to change has to come from the top, from the policy makers and those that control the purse strings.”

  • The report, The beating heart of care: supporting care workers better, can be downloaded from: https://www.thecareworkerscharity.org.uk/wellbeing-report/

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