Care home workers should get a £500 Christmas bonus to stop them from quitting the profession, health bosses say.
NHS Providers — which represents healthcare staff — warned workers were already being lured away by up to £3,000 sign-up payments from Amazon.
It called on ministers to offer a festive paypacket to those in the sector to limit the number who will leave during what is expected to be a tough winter.
The care sector has been plagued by vacancies in recent years and care homes were thrown into chaos last week after the ‘no jab, no job’ Covid policy kicked in.
An estimated 57,000 employees were sacked as a result of the controversial rule, or a tenth of the workforce.
Experts warned this — on top of 100,000 vacancies — could force many homes to close and put residents lives at risk because of unsafe staffing levels.
Health bosses have called for a £500 bonus to be given to care home workers (stock image)
Pictured: The above graph shows the proportion of staff working in care homes for the over-65s who have received their first and second doses of the vaccine. It is up to October 31, the latest date available
Chris Hopson, chief executive at NHS Providers, called for a ‘minimum’ £500 bonus, which would cost the public some £750million overall.
He said: ‘It is this kind of immediate, emergency action the Government needs to be thinking about… because our system has to stop the current flow of people leaving social care and going into other industries like retail.
‘We know those industries are trying to secure a Christmas workforce as the next six weeks is where they make a significant amount of their profit.
Elderly ‘neglected and abandoned’ by collapsing social care system, says campaign
Elderly care residents remain ‘neglected, abandoned and betrayed’ nearly two years into the pandemic, campaigners have warned.
Hundreds of thousands of Britain’s most vulnerable are suffering due to the ‘collapsing’ social care system, while the rest of society embraces normality.
Many residents are ‘imprisoned’ in their rooms as care homes continue to impose draconian Covid visiting rules, which lawyers say breach their human rights.
Charities say residents’ suffering will intensify this winter as chronic staffing shortages mean carers can only do the ‘bare minimum’.
Tens of thousands of care staff lost their jobs last Thursday due to a law requiring them all to be double-jabbed – forcing some homes to close beds and refuse to take on new patients.
The Daily Mail campaigned for an end to visiting bans imposed on 400,000 residents during the pandemic, and formal restrictions were officially lifted in July.
But many homes have continued to restrict visits to pre-booked supervised 30 minutes slots, while rules also state they should lock down for two weeks if there are any Covid cases.
Diane Mayhew, from campaign group Rights for Residents, said ‘essential care givers’ must be given a legal right to visit in all circumstances.
She said: ‘The rest of society is back to normal, but people in care homes remain an afterthought. They have been neglected, abandoned and betrayed throughout this pandemic.’
‘That’s why Amazon and others are paying a substantial bonus. If we don’t stop the loss of social care staff, that will be a real issue and it needs to be looked at really quickly.’
Care workers in Scotland and Northern Ireland were given a £500 ‘thank you’ bonus for their work during the pandemic, while in Wales they have received £1,235.
But no such handouts have been given to their counterparts in England.
Unions and care leaders have called for care home staff to get a £1,000 bonus this winter.
The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president Stephen Chandler said yesterday that the four-figure payment would show the country ‘prized’ their skills.
He said: ‘It would send a strong signal to people that care work is a career that is respected and is going to be properly rewarded in the future.
‘Unlike their counterparts in the rest of the UK, care workers in England have not been paid any Government bonus for working through the pandemic.’
Care England’s chief executive Professor Martin Green has also called on ministers to thank workers for fighting the virus.
He said the bonus should not be taxed, and paid directly to staff instead of through their employers.
‘Retention bonuses are vital to recognise the hard work that social care staff have done and continue to do. This is a thank you and to support staff retention,’ he said.
‘It brings us into line with Scotland and Wales. This sector is facing a workforce crisis and we need to do all we can to cherish our staff, they are our best resource.’
UNISON senior national officer Gavin Edwards called on ministers to force an above-inflation pay rise for social care workers following the pandemic.
A petition was launched to get social care and NHS workers a £500 ‘thank you’ bonus in January, and got some 16,000 signatures.
But it was rejected by ministers, with the Department of Health saying at the time it was ‘immensely grateful’ to the sector but ‘not, currently’ considering bonuses.
It said it was exploring other ways ‘to improve recognition of health and social care staff.’
Care home residents were disproportionately affected by Covid during the first wave of the pandemic.
It later emerged that hundreds of infected patients were discharged to homes from hospitals without a test.
Ministers have argued that their controversial new vaccine mandate in care homes is to ensure there is never another outbreak in the sector.
The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.