A SOCIAL care leader is calling for urgent action after it was revealed that a shortage of staff is putting the lives of vulnerable people at risk. 

Mario Kreft MBE, chair of Care Forum Wales, spoke out after the concern was highlighted in a report to Denbighshire County Council’s governance and audit committee. 

The worrying situation was described as ‘critical’, and the report added: “We are deeply concerned that a death could occur as a result of insufficient staffing resources.” 

Denbighshire Council corporate director Nicola Stubbins said: “These challenges put pressures on the whole sector, its workers, and users, with local authority and care providers increasingly having to rely on expensive agency staff.” 

According to Mr Kreft, the findings were shocking but sadly came as no surprise. 

He claims Denbighshire County Council has helped create the problem in the first place because of the ‘chronic underfunding of social care in the county over many years. 

Mr Kreft said in calculating the fees paid to care homes and domiciliary care companies, the council allocated specific sums to pay staff, and this had kept rates low. 

As a result, new recruits were deterred from working in the sector and existing staff were being tempted away by higher wages elsewhere, such as the NHS or even supermarkets who paid more for less responsibility. 

Mr Kreft said: “The chickens have come home to roost because this is a problem of Denbighshire’s own making. What they’re doing is unreasonable and indefensible. 

“They have been ignoring this crisis for years in the hope that it is going to go away. All they have succeeded in doing is making matters worse at a time when need and costs are rising exponentially." 

He added: “Denbighshire came up with a formula to manage their budget and totally ignored the true cost of care. 

“Had it not been for Welsh Government and the extra support during the pandemic, the situation would have been even more catastrophic. 

“If people are at risk of dying because of this, Denbighshire Council will only have themselves to blame. 

“Action is needed urgently to put these matters right – it is literally a case of life or death.” 

 Denbighshire’s lead member for health and social care Cllr Elen Heaton responded: “The report to Denbighshire County Council’s Governance and Audit Committee this week was in relation to the recruitment and retention challenges of DCC social care staff and the impact that this could have on the council’s ability to deliver its statutory social care functions.  

“The report recognised that there is a National, UK-wide, recruitment and retention crisis in Social Care, across most if not all roles, and this is mirrored UK wide in Health Services too. It is well documented that public services across the UK have been put under enormous financial pressures for many years, and social care is no exception.  

“The council has implemented a number of urgent actions to address this including reviewing pay, terms and conditions, and improving our advertising and promotion of social care vacancies. However, this is of course against the backdrop of the huge financial pressures felt across all councils in both Wales and across the UK. 

“Given that the recruitment and retention crisis is a national issue, it is understood that there is a limit to the number of actions that DCC can take on its own to address this challenge, and therefore Lead Members and Senior Officers have also been instrumental in raising this issue at a regional and national level through the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) Cymru.  

“Social care recruitment and retention is being closely monitored at both a regional level and national level, including by Welsh Government. It is important to be clear however that crucial funding decisions regarding public services are made by the UK government in Westminster.”

In response to the comments from Care Forum Wales, Cllr Heaton said, “This report was about DCC recruitment and retention issues – not care fees. The council carried out a consultation on increased fees for 2022/23 with our providers.  

“Following important feedback given by the providers, we launched a further review of the fees. As a result, a decision was taken in June 2022 to recognise this current challenge, and therefore additional uplifts to fees were made. We are currently working on fees for 2023-24. However, the council is having to make difficult decisions because of years of underfunding by Westminster.”