Out-of-work white collar workers are being urged to consider elderly care jobs amid fears up to 100,000 critical roles may remain unfilled in a recruitment race with supermarkets.

Unprecedented financial help for care services to ease bed-blocking in hospitals comes as the likes of Tesco and Morrisons also announce plans to take on tens of thousands of emergency staff.

Entry-level job vacancies in retail, care and the NHS are in direct competition are all surging, with recruiters targeting ready-and-willing British talent forced suddenly out of work by the coronavirus crisis.

With up to a million job losses predicted in other sectors, Care UK, Age UK and the Local Government Association are urging job-hunters to consider how the care sector plays a critical role in helping the NHS.

Councils are receiving £1.6billion of the emergency funding package supplied by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the NHS is expected to top up that fund £2.3billion. However, with one in 11 care home jobs already unfilled, Age UK said a high proportion of staff over the years have left the sector to take less stressful roles such as shelf-stacking.

All the major supermarkets are stepping up their recruitment over the coming weeks due to record sales as consumers bulk buy. With Tesco alone taking on 10,000 new staff, Care UK have called for potential applicants to also consider the care sector.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive at Care England, told the Daily Telegraph that “it might be a danger in the future” of supermarkets and care homes being in direct competition. However, he is hopeful that all sectors can take advantage of increasing numbers of people in need of work.

“Of course there will be a lot of people who have not been able to work in the rest of the economy so there will be a lot more people who potentially could be, either going into frontline roles care or indeed into the distribution chain,” he added.

“So, potentially you got more people who could be in both those areas. If you look at the numbers of people who are no longer working in say retail or indeed the restaurant sector, or hotels and hospitality, there are a lot of people who could potentially move across both to distribution jobs but also to care jobs.”

Home Instead, a private firm which provides services to help older people still living in their own properties, is among hundreds of care firms launching fresh recruitment drives.

Martin Jones, the firm’s chief executive, told the Daily Telegraph he already had 3,000 live vacancies “largely due to an increase in demand”. “We are working closely with other care providers as well as retailers and supermarkets to ensure that people that have recently lost work in sectors like hospitality are given the opportunity of employment,” he said.

While the Government has introduced measures for doctors and nurses to come back to the NHS, the LGA says the Government should extend its thinking to care workers to help boost the social care effort. Care UK suggested the sector might also make use of people who have volunteered to help the NHS.

This week numbers passed half a million, double the Government’s recruitment target, and Mr Green added: “There’s lots of roles they can go into which are not directly facing care roles”.

“They might want to go into the roles which are about, say, for example, meal prep, cleaning within care homes, those roles.” Ruthe Isden, head of health influencing at Age UK,  said the entire care industry is “holding our breath, waiting for the next few weeks” to see how badly Britain’s 1.5million vulnerable – many of them elderly – are helped by the near-lockdown measures launched by Government.

Horror stories have emerged around the care sector in Europe, with Spain’s state prosecutor launching an investigation after soldiers deployed to help found elderly patients abandoned or dead in retirement homes.

Ms Isden told the Telegraph she hoped Britain is equipped to cope, but she added: “This is very challenging for the social care sector. It’s fair to say they are just as on the frontline as the NHS. It’s heartening to see that the sector is getting more recognition than a lot of us might have expected. “Staffing will become the main question over the next weeks and months,” she said.

“They are already running a high vacancy rate. Around one in 11 jobs are unfilled. At any one time there are around 100,000 vacancies, and turnover rate is quite high. Staffing is going to be critical.” She added that – despite the extra Government funding to councils – third sector organisations such as hers are facing a fight for survival. “Our shops are closed and we have lost funds from the London Marathon,” she added. “Yet we’re not mothballing we are trying to rapidly expand due to the need. It’s very challenging.”  

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