One clear issue highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic is the inadequacies in the care sector. At present, there are over 110,000 vacant roles, with a staff turnover rate of 30.7%. During the pandemic, staff shortages undoubtedly put greater pressure on the care sector, especially considering the high concentration of vulnerable individuals.
However, the pandemic has also highlighted longer-term issues within the care sector. Currently, one fifth of all care workers are over 55, meaning that in the next decade approximately 300,000 carers will be needed to fill the gap left by retirees. By 2041, people aged 65+ will represent 26% of the population, with 7% of the population being above the age of 85 years (according to the Office of National Statistics). This is compared to the population aged between 16 – 64 years, which will only rise by 2%. Furthermore, Brexit provides new barriers to the migrant care workers that this country has desperately relied on.
Another long-term problem exacerbated by the pandemic is the unsatisfactory University experience for students. Many feel very frustrated with the current Universities system, with sub-par Education costing high amounts, a growing mental health crisis and expensive rents for accommodation they are not allowed to stay in. Students feel as if University run as a business.
Surprisingly, I think these two problems can be married together with one solution. To encourage young people to work in the care sector, a new quasi “National service” could be created, with young people choosing to work in the care sector in exchange for a small salary and either free university tuition or subsidised university tuition (depending on the time spent working in the care sector).
The Government’s role would be to co-ordinate the scheme by finding vacancies, advertising the scheme to young people and providing training, as well as subsidising University education. The benefits of this idea are numerous. Firstly, students will no longer be burdened later in life by crippling debt as they attempt to climb the housing ladder. Furthermore, this would give young people greater respect and compassion towards elderly people, as there is arguably a negative perception and a stigma towards care homes. A staggering 96% of care professionals feel their work makes a difference in people’s lives, so it would a be positive experience for young people. This scheme could arguably shape attitudes in society and make Britain a more compassionate nation.
Secondly, this would help fill the staff shortages within care homes, improving the quality of care and easing strain on services. With 1.9 million UK born students, if only 10% of students took up the scheme, it would go a long to way to filling staff shortages.
As a young person aged 17 myself, I really believe the scheme would cater to both young people’s futures and elderly people’s needs, whilst potentially moving Britain into becoming a more compassionate nation.