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Care Sector: Apprenticeships

Volume 764: debated on Monday 6 July 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the report The UK Nursing Workforce: Crisis or Opportunity published by consultants Christie + Co on 3 June, which highlighted a serious staff shortage in care homes, what proportion of new apprenticeships will be in the care sector.

My Lords, apprenticeships are paid jobs with quality training. Officials in BIS and the Department of Health are discussing what can be done to offer more opportunities as part of the commitment to 3 million apprenticeship starts in this Parliament. Our priority is to work with employers to increase the number of apprenticeships. We are developing a comprehensive plan for growth, including a renewed emphasis on communications and a greater role for the public sector.

I thank the noble Earl for that Answer. I was specifically concerned about the great shortage of nurses, who are needed in this country. The burden of the need for nurses falls particularly heavily on care homes. On Wednesday, the National Care Forum will publish a survey showing that in the care workforce, only 12% are under 25 years old and 50% are over 45 years old. Recruitment is difficult because there is no clear career pathway—it is seen as a low-wage, high-turnover job. So can the Government offer young people a lifetime career in caring, with training and promotion prospects from care assistants into nursing professionals?

My Lords, the noble Baroness asked a number of questions. She asked about a career pathway for young people going into the sector. If we look at the apprenticeship starts by sector, and particularly at the Trailblazer system of industry-designed apprenticeships for getting people into them, there is one for nursing, another for adult care, another for healthcare and another for early years. There have also been in excess of 250,000 new apprenticeship starts in the care sector between 2010-11 and 2013-14. Apprenticeships are one route for those who want to progress into a satisfying career within the care sector.

My Lords, the Christie report points out that 20% of nursing students drop out of their university courses, which is a waste of their careers and of public money. Can the Minister say what the Government are planning to do to reduce this dropout rate as a matter of urgency? To have a shortage is not good enough, but to waste 20% of those who enrol in university courses is a disgrace.

The noble Baroness is quite right about people leaving these courses after they have been accepted on them. Ministers in various departments are discussing this issue.

My noble friend’s question refers to the care sector. Does the noble Earl agree that the care sector must extend to domiciliary care—care given in people’s own home—where job satisfaction is even lower, what with 15-minute visits and so on? Improving the quality of that care is essential. Does he agree that these apprenticeships should also take domiciliary care workers into account?

The noble Baroness is quite right. Domiciliary care for people in their own home is so important. At the same time, the standard of care also has to increase.

Is the Minister aware that the RCN has estimated that more than 3,000 overseas nurses currently earn less than £35,000 and are therefore liable to be deported in 2017 as a result of the Immigration Rules? Can he tell me how many of those nurses are in the care sector? Can he also tell me why nurses are not on the shortage occupation list, which would exempt them from those regulations? Will he make it his business to see whether the Home Secretary can change that?

My Lords, the noble Baroness mentioned the shortage occupation list. In February, following a commission from my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to conduct a limited review into a number of occupations on the shortage occupation list, which included roles in the health sector, the Migration Advisory Council advised against putting nurses on the shortage occupation list, after taking evidence from a range of stakeholders. Controlling migration is part of our plan to build a system that is fairer to British citizens. Employers must first try to recruit from the settled workforce.

Does the noble Earl agree that the apprenticeship scheme should encourage young people, particularly those coming into nursing, but that at the same time it is important that enough supervision and basic knowledge are given to apprentices before they are allowed to practise, to prevent any mishaps or mistakes being made and ensure that the quality of care is satisfactory?

The noble Baroness is quite correct that the quality of care in these roles is so important, as is the fact that so many young people are coming into this area. According to the overall apprenticeship figures, covering the whole employment workforce, there are now more than 119,000 apprenticeship starts for those under the age of 19, which is an increase of 4.6%.

Can the noble Earl tell us the cost of employing agency nurses in the health service in the current—

Does my noble friend think that the care sector is perhaps a particularly suitable occupation for people over 45? When you have brought up a few children you have had the rough edges knocked off you, and are likely to be a much easier companion for an old person.

My noble friend is quite right. I think the noble Baroness mentioned older people leaving the profession. As I understand it, the current figures are flattening out and improving, and there is more retention of people approaching retirement age.

My Lords, is the Minister confident that there really is an attractive career path for young people going into the care profession, whether in homes or in domiciliary care, and that there really is a pathway through to nursing in this vital vocational route, taking into account that demand in this area will expand significantly?

I think that the fact that, as I mentioned, there has been in excess of 250,000 new apprenticeship starts in the care sector in the last three to four years speaks for itself.