CARE providers fear more staff shortages saying the pandemic has worsened the recruitment crisis, and that they cannot wait much longer for help.

Care provider organisation, the Independent Care Group (ICG), for both voluntary and private care, is calling for Government help as the number of old and vulnerable people admitted into care rises, yet some 120,000 vacancies continue to remain open.

ICG chairman, Mike Padgham, who runs four care homes in North Yorkshire, said: “We are approaching a crisis point where there simply won’t be enough people to provide care.

“All of this comes at a time when we know demand for care is rising and occupancy levels are recovering slowly after the pandemic- a perfect storm of rising demand and falling supply.

“We are struggling to keep our heads above water, and the people who are going to suffer are those vulnerable people.”

The ICG have also claimed that the end of freedom of movement after Brexit has cut off a source of recruitment for the sector, followed by problems brought on by the pandemic of staff isolation and sickness.

Mr Pagham, who is also managing director of Saint Cecilia’s Care Group, said that plans to “force all employees to have the vaccine”, has resulted in further staff shortages, with carers then leaving the sector.

Currently, social care looks after 400,000 people in care and nursing homes, three times the number in NHS hospital beds, plus caring for an additional 640,000 people in their own homes.

Mr Padgham said that there are at least another £1.5 million who cannot get the care they need due to these shortages.

So the ICG was furious after it was reported that Government plans to support the sector were delayed further until the autumn, after repeatedly calling for reform.

Despite support from CCGs and local authorities in North Yorkshire, it is not enough to support the sector overall, as Government support is needed to overhaul the whole sector.

He said: “Care providers are facing a daily battle to cover home calls and care home shifts and it can’t go on. We need short-term measures to support care providers, and of course a long-term plan to reform care and tackle the underlying causes of the long-standing staffing shortage.

“We need the Government to set a date for reform and stick to it, otherwise this is going to go on and on and reform will never come.”

The reforms that the ICG have requested require an overhaul of the way that social care is planned, managed and funded.

They are campaigning for dementia to be treated as a higher priority illness such as cancer and heart disease, and to tackle funding problems with a fixed percentage of GDP to be spent on social care, social care businesses to be zero-rated for VAT, and extra funding by taxation or National Insurance.

They also want to see that the NHS and social care are merged, and managed at either a solely local or national level.