Date of release: Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Austerity measures are hindering both the expansion and the efficiency ofStrengthening social care workforce the social care sector, according to new research carried out by the University of Greenwich.

Jane Lethbridge, Director of the Public Services International Research Unit (PSIRU), part of the university's Business School, found in her European-wide study that a well-trained and experienced social care workforce which offers a high level of service will remain a distant possibility if there are not significant improvements in funding.

"Demand for social services will continue to increase due to an ageing population in Europe," she says. "Budget reductions are affecting not only the availability and affordability of the services, but also the working conditions and overall quality. There is pressure to reduce staff costs, either by reducing the level of qualifications required or through lower wages, even though other recent research has found that the social care sector is one of the fastest growing employment sectors in Europe.

"The sector has the potential to create jobs but it faces several challenges. Overall, creating a well-trained and experienced workforce will depend on funding opportunities and political will."

The research paid particular attention to social care services for people with disabilities. Nearly a hundred EASPD (European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities) service provider organisations from 18 European countries took part in an online survey which explored how they recruited and trained social care workers. There were also further interviews and focus groups.

The report, Strengthening the workforce for people with disabilities: Initial mapping across Europe, concludes that the social care sector in almost all European countries is made up of predominantly women workers, characterised by high training needs, low-pay jobs, low status and part-time hour contracts.

The report recommends various actions at European and national levels to remedy the situation. These include improved staff training; the development of a general funding standard and quality framework for services at European level; and a better consultation process between national governments and service providers, to show decision-makers the importance of pay and working conditions in the social care sector.

The research was commissioned by EASPD / the European Observatory for Human Resources.

The university's Public Services International Research Unit investigates the privatisation and restructuring of public services around the world, with special focus on health and social care, water, energy and waste management. To find out more:

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Story by Public Relations