These findings were supported by a similar study conducted by NACAS in the same year which showed a shocking 79% of care workers felt they were “close to burnout”.

Our report emphasises that mental ill health is a concern for not only frontline care workers, but those in management positions also. Mental ill health was found to be the main staffing concern during interviews with registered managers and senior leaders, and yet many of the managers we spoke to emphasised the challenge of finding “the right services and support for their teams”, and “not feeling trained, qualified or confident enough to help”. This feeling of helplessness, combined with the pressure and accountability such positions bring, has no doubt exacerbated their own mental ill health.

Care sector staff discussed with us the self-taught strategies they had adopted to ‘survive’ the emotional pressures of the role. These ranged from “shutting off” for five minutes during a shiſt, to falling asleep with the television on at the end of a 12-hour working day- and were born out of necessity as many workers were not being sufficiently supported by their employer. The ‘Beating Heart’ research paper found that 80% of care workers had not been offered formal training on managing their mental health at work, while 50% said their employer did not offer any formal or informal support for their mental wellbeing. The report found that 68% of care workers said they would be interested in a service that supported their mental wellbeing, and 50% of registered managers felt they needed training in how to offer good pastoral support to their team. It is not too strong a statement to make, then, that those who work in the social care sector have been woefully unsupported.

It is on top of this existing deficiency of support, that the additional impact of Covid-19 is felt. Social care workers now not only feel the pressure and stress that comes with their role, but also face anxiety around PPE shortages

and the risk of fatal infection to themselves, the people in their care, and their families- with one in two reporting a further decline to their mental health. Regardless of the trauma they have, and continue to experience, many are not eligible for bespoke therapy, and those that are cannot afford its cost. Without existing support structures in place, they are forced to cope alone.

To bridge this gap, the Care Workers’ Charity is in the process of introducing Mental Health Grants for people working in the sector, offering sessions of therapy or counselling from licensed professionals tailored to the needs of the individual. We are now appealing for support and donations to this fund to help us ensure care workers receive the right type of guidance and support to help them through this dark period.

Whilst steps such as ours go some way to address the issue of mental ill health, we must continue to ensure that it remains an enduring priority- and not just a topical presence. Care providers must build clear, visible and comprehensive policies around supporting the mental wellbeing of their care staff. More broadly, conversations need to continue- increasing the visibility of the issue and, subsequently, decreasing the stigma associated with seeking help and support.

As a sector, it is our duty to advocate for increased wellbeing support structures, alongside sweeping changes to wages and working conditions- which will help alleviate the mental burden for our workforce.

In short, the pandemic represents a point of pivotal change and reflection- we can and must do better.

Donations to the Mental Health Grants fund can be made at: health-appeal

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