URGENT MATTERS AS AGREED BY THE CHAIR
Notice of items which, in the opinion of the Chair, should be considered at the meeting as a matter of urgency pursuant to Section 100B(4) of the Local Government Act, 1972.
No urgent matters.
Question put to Full Council by Cllr Rhys Thomas
“The UK Government announced in December that they were going to relax immigration rules for overseas care workers. The Department of Health and Social Care then announced that these measures would come into effect early next year and be in place for 12 months.
We are all aware of the critical shortage of care workers in Denbighshire so is the Lead Member aware of these welcome changes and have they come into effect locally”?
Response by Lead Member Cllr Bobby Feeley:
We are aware of these welcome changes. Locally, here in Denbighshire, we are also aware of the new ruling and are supporting providers who are keen to maximise any opportunities to recruit care workers in line with the UK Government’s relaxation of the immigration rules. It was, indeed, announced in December that care workers, care assistants and home care workers will be eligible for the health and care visa on a 12 month period. This will mean that we will be able to recruit additional care workers to boost the adult social care workforce which should make it quicker and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to fill the gaps.
The corona virus pandemic has highlighted a range of staff shortages in the social care sector placing pressures on the existing workforce despite the incredible and tireless efforts of social care staff. Although I am quite sure my letter to the Prime Minister sent on your behalf helped it a bit, it has to said, the changes to the legislation also followed on from a recommendation from Migration Advisory Committee to make care workers and home carers eligible for the Health and Care visa and to add the occupation to the skilled workers occupation list. At the time, the response from UK Government which I shared with you all was rather disappointing but looks as if a short time later we got the result we wanted. This, obviously, won’t solve the problem overnight but it will help and for that I am very grateful.
Question put to Full Council by Cllr Graham Timms
“Could you please give an update to the council on the problems relating to the provision of social care in the Dee Valley and across Denbighshire?”
Response by Lead Member Cllr Bobby Feeley:
“We are still experiencing challenges with the provision of social care across Denbighshire. However, the unmet demand has reduced in the last month by 138 hrs. The Contracts and Commissioning Team are in discussions with Wrexham around a sub-regional rural approach for the south of the county which has been problematic.
A range of measures and initiatives have been agreed and monitored by a new Denbighshire County Council Social Care Recruitment and Retention Group Chaired by Nicola Stubbins, the Corporate Director for Communities. This will include looking at pay rates for all roles across adult and children social care and promoting our benefits. Additional dedicated HR Resource has been put in place to support social care recruitment and retention. We have accessed additional covid recovery funding to support recruitment to care for both external care providers and our internal services. Providers are also taking initiatives on recruitment and retention which includes such incentives as;
· Financial support towards driving lessons for new applicants
· Funding to purchase bikes for non-driving applicants
· A variety of different golden hello and employment referral schemes
· Boosted advertising on social media
· Online application platform
· Supporting providers to apply for oversees workers permits via Home Office initiatives
The Contracts Officers are currently looking at fee setting for care providers for 2022/23. Denbighshire County Council will be actively advocating that all carers are paid the Real Living Wage, the fees awarded to providers will ensure that this is possible. We continue to negotiate with new providers to provide for people’s social care needs and we have one new provider already who will begin within the next few weeks that is subject to necessary checks. In addition, we are working with health to access providers who they have existing business relationships with.
I am sure you will understand that although things are improving, this problem actually pre-dates the pandemic so improvements coming forward now will take time to make a real difference.
Both the UK Government and the Welsh Government are certainly taking initiatives and putting more money into social care but, it is still not enough, and even when factoring in paying the Real Living Wage, funding of social care most certainly does not compare with NHS. We are, however, making progress and we will keep trying.”
Councillor Graham Timms submitted a supplemental question:
“I recognise it is a huge problem in Denbighshire and much wider as well. It is a particular problem in the Dee Valley which really desperately needs to be addressed. It seems it has been caused by the cherry picking of care providers. They choose the best packages and then suddenly when they think it does not suit them they drop these people with no help whatsoever and leave a huge hole. I am pleased to hear about the new initiatives but, obviously, they will take time to come through and I wonder if it is time to start thinking about moving back to providing social care through the county council rather than having masses of other companies and contracts. We can then ensure we look after our staff and they are looking after our population.”
Response from the Lead Member, Councillor Bobby Feeley:
“Denbighshire County Council are doing that also. Recruitment days and recruitment drives have been held over the last year or so. It is equally as difficult for us within social care in-house to recruit as it is for the outside companies.”
Additional response from Nicola Stubbins, Corporate Director: Communities:
“Regarding the comment on “cherry picking” which is very concerning, if Councillor Timms has evidence of this, please let me know and we will talk to the providers. The majority, if not all, of our social care providers are dedicated to that work and the role they undertake, which is a crucial role.
It has been a really challenging time and, as the Lead Member mentioned, these issues pre-date the pandemic. As things have got more difficult and challenging, and staffing has become an issue, agencies have had no choice but to hand back packages of care and I know, having had discussions with them, that had not been something that they have wanted to do. They have relationships with those individuals that have been built up, sometimes over many years. It tends to be the most complex cases as they are most labour intensive and more difficult to provide that level of staffing for. I have not seen evidence that providers are cherry picking in a negative context but, clearly their staffing situation means that those more complex and challenging cases are more difficult for them to resource efficient staffing to meet those individual needs. If Councillor Timms or any Member has any evidence to the contrary, please raise that directly with me and I will look into those details and work with our providers to ensure that that is something that is not tolerated.”