The government’s failure to deal with the growing staffing crisis in social care risks worsening the mounting mental health toll on workers.
A new survey from UNISON shows that a substantial proportion of care workers have suffered problems during the pandemic including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with more than two thirds saying their mental health has declined.
The vast majority said their work had contributed to the difficulties they were experiencing, leading to UNISON warning that there is a serious risk their health woes could worsen because severe staff shortages across the care sector are piling on the pressure.
The union surveyed more than 4,000 staff working in care homes and delivering care in communities across the UK. More than eight in ten (85 per cent) of those who had experienced mental health deterioration since the start of the pandemic said their work had been a factor.
In addition to an overhaul of the sector to sort out chronic understaffing and endemic low pay, UNISON is calling for an immediate increase in support for care workers’ wellbeing, which staff must be able to access directly.
Christina McAnea, UNISON general secretary, 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.
“Despite the Prime Minister’s promise to fix social care, there is still no plan. With the sector facing the abyss and thousands of staff down with others leaving all the time, more must be done to support those that remain in post. The government’s commitment to funding mental health support is welcome. But help is needed now, not at some unknown point in the future.”