EVERY English region is struggling to recruit childcare workers, according to new analysis by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), using Coram Family and Childcare data.

Nearly all (95 per cent) of English councils who responded to a survey told Coram that childcare providers in their area were having difficulty recruiting workers with the right skills and experience to do the job – and eight in 10 (80 per cent) local authorities described it as “very difficult”.

The analysis suggests childcare recruitment is most difficult in the East of England, the West Midlands and the North East – where 100 per cent of councils said childcare providers found it “very difficult” to recruit sufficient staff the with the right skills and experience.

And every single one of the local authorities responding in the East of England, the North East, the North West, the South West, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humberside described recruitment of childcare workers as “difficult”.

The TUC is calling for a new care workforce strategy to tackle the staffing crisis facing both childcare and social care in England. The union body says that both sectors face a staffing crisis stemming from endemic low pay and insecure work, which hits their predominantly female workforces hard.

Like the childcare sector, the social care sector is also struggling to recruit – the latest figures show there are currently 152,000 vacancies in social care, meaning one in 10 jobs are not filled. The TUC says this is having a huge negative impact on children and adults receiving care and – in the case of social care – placing huge strain on the NHS.

Further new analysis published by the TUC reveals:

  • More than three in five (62 per cent) childcare assistants and practitioners earn less than the real Living Wage (£10.90 an hour).
  • More than three in five (61 per cent) social care workers and senior care workers earn less than the real Living Wage.
  • Social care workers earn only around 65 per cent of the median salary for all employees (£21,500 per annum compared to £33,000).
  • And childcare practitioners earn only 56 per cent of the median salary for all employees (£18,400), while childcare assistants earn 58 per cent of the median wage (£19,000).

The TUC says this leaves many care workers and their families struggling to survive. More than one in four (28 per cent) children with a parent working in social care are growing up below the poverty line.

TUC General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “We will all rely on care at some point in our lives, whether that’s childcare for our kids or social care for ourselves or our family members. The care our loved ones get must be of the highest standard. But that’s only possible if jobs in care are decent and paid well enough to attract and keep the right people.

“Childcare and social care must stop being Cinderella sectors. Demand for care is rising. Caring is skilled work, and the overwhelmingly female workforce deserves decent pay and conditions. Ministers must urgently introduce a £15 an hour minimum wage for childcare and social care workers.

“They also need to bring in sector collective bargaining and establish new sector partnership arrangements to up skill care workers and stop the race to the bottom on pay and conditions. And ministers should require employers to end the use of zero-hours contracts and pay decent sick pay to all workers.”

To deliver a genuine world-class cradle to grave care system in England, the new TUC strategy calls for a range of measures including ensuring:

  • Worker voices are heard and valued through sectoral collective bargaining to agree pay and working conditions, and National Partnership Forums in social care and childcare.
  • Decent pay and conditions for all care workers including a minimum wage of £15 per hour, sick pay, secure contracts and full payment for all time worked.
  • Skills, training, and progression pathways: There should be nationally negotiated training frameworks to ensure consistency and quality that make sure staff are fairly remunerated and can progress. This national framework should make sure training is accredited and qualifications are recognised and transferrable to new employers.
  • Health, safety, and wellbeing, including ensuring that staffing levels are based on care and education needs and not arbitrary ratios. And a zero-tolerance approach to workplace abuse with comprehensive safeguarding and support, notably for staff who may be at risk of experiencing abuse and harassment including Black and migrant workers.

Head of Coram Family and Childcare Megan Jarvie said: “Childcare is a vital part of our infrastructure – it enables parents to work and helps to boost children’s outcomes. But achieving these outcomes is reliant on the skills and commitment of the workforce, so it is really concerning that we are seeing struggles to recruit right across the country. Action is needed to support the workforce to make sure that every child is able to access high quality early education and childcare.”

UNISON General Secretary Christina McAnea said: “Acute underfunding and extreme government neglect have led to a race to the bottom in the care sector. With pay rates hovering near the legal minimum, care workers often don’t stick around long before quitting for more lucrative, less stressful work. Raising pay, improving training and providing a proper career path are essential to end the recruitment crisis, and make sure people get the care they need and deserve.”

* Read: A Strategy for the Care Workforce here.

* Source: Trades Union Congress