Rebecca Evans Minister for Social Services and Public Health
In September 2015, the Welsh Government commissioned important primary and secondary research from Manchester Metropolitan University on the relationship between the terms and conditions of domiciliary social workers and the quality of the care delivered. This research concluded there was a clear and convincing link.
Consequently, the Welsh Government consulted on a range of proposals in relation to these matters set out in a document “Domiciliary Care Workforce – improving the recruitment and retention of domiciliary care workers in Wales”. Proposals consulted on included matters relating to zero hours contracts, compliance with the national minimum wage, travel time, call clipping and length of calls, career structure, development and training, occupational status and health and safety.
108 responses were received from a wide range of stakeholders, and today I am publishing the results of that consultation. The summary of responses report can be found here: https://consultations.gov.wales/consultations/domiciliary-care-workforce
The Welsh Government recognises social care as a strategically important sector. Within that, the domiciliary workforce plays a crucial role in helping people stay at home and maintain their independence for as long as possible. However, we know that recruitment to the profession can be difficult, and it can be difficult to retain staff. The key message from this consultation is that multiple actions are needed to improve recruitment and retention, including reinforcing compliance with existing requirements such as the national minimum wage, increasing the transparency of processes - for example differentiating clearly between travel time and call time - and continuing to pursue opportunities to establish domiciliary care as an attractive, supported and rewarding long term career.
The evidence from this consultation also raises some real and practical issues with the way ahead that we must consider, such as the approach to zero hours contracts, what level of qualification is appropriate for the registration of the workforce and what a career pathway might look like. In some cases, such as in relation to zero hours contracts, responses have been limited, and we will need to continue the conversation with the people affected, such as workers, employee representative organisations and employers bodies, in order to make the right decisions.
This will enable the Welsh Government to take forward its commitment to taking further action to limit the use of zero hours contracts in social care. In the first instance, I intend to bring forward regulations under the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act to set a requirement for all providers to publish the number of their employees that are on zero hour contracts, as a way of improving transparency through reporting. In addition to this, I will be consulting on options to take further action on zero hour contracts via the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act regulations next year.
I have asked the Care Council for Wales to consider and use this report in the development of their five-year strategy for domiciliary care in Wales. This work, commissioned by the Welsh Government, will deliver a sector-led plan for improvement in social care and is due to report to me shortly.
The above actions in response to the consultation complement the work that we are already doing to professionalise the workforce and increase the prestige of what is a crucial but undervalued role. Social Care Wales is being formed from the Care Council and will begin operating in April using a powerful combination of functions to strengthen services and the workforce that provides them. One of its first tasks will be to prepare for the extension of workforce registration to domiciliary care workers in 2020. This will involve supporting the workforce to achieve the relevant qualification level using the substantial workforce development grant funding made available by the government to the sector.