INCREASING the pay of social care workers in Wrexham and Denbighshire so that they earn more than shelf stackers in discount supermarkets is vital to solve the massive recruitment crisis in the sector.

The call from Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, came after a campaign was launched to attract another 20,000 social care workers in Wales over the next 10 years.

Mr Kreft said the nub of the problem was that the funding formulas of local councils and health boards were predicated on paying low wages to staff and the “minimal differentials” for taking on extra responsibilities - and that had to change.

He welcomed the WeCare.Wales campaign unveiled by Social Care Wales but warned that more money needed to be found to ensure that care staff could be paid a “decent wage”.

At the moment, he said, the funding formulas of local councils and health boards were predicated on paying low wages to staff.

The number of elderly people over the age of 80 is predicted to increase by 44% in Wales by 2030 and there are currently about 113,000 people in the social care sector.

The ageing population in Wales and relatively older workforce are two factors for the increasing demand for care workers in people’s own homes, workers in residential care and more nurses.

Mr Kreft said: “I can certainly say that this is the most challenging time that social care providers have faced in trying to recruit sufficient workers to actually do the job.

“This campaign comes absolutely at the right time because we’ve got to do something urgently.

Mr Kreft said: “The elephant in the room is that you can be paid more for stacking shelves in a discount supermarket than for being a care worker this.

“This campaign does help is we have to raise the awareness of the value of people. We have heard recently the Welsh Government have put in their economic action plan how important social care is to our economy. But we’re not seeing that translated to the elephant in the room which is how much are we going to pay these people.

“If you’re in North East Wales, for example, where you’ve virtually got full employment from a statistical point of view, you’ve got so many opportunities.

“I looked on a couple of websites last night knowing I was looking at some discount supermarkets that are headquartered in mainland Europe, and you look at what they’re offering. So, if you’re going to put more pressure on sector, more pressure on the workers.

“What you’ve currently got is two systems that inter-relate. You’ve got the NHS which is free at the point of delivery and you’ve got means tested social care which predominately comes through local authorities.

“Now, there are only three ways we can actually raise finance and support for these services - private money, it’s insurance or it’s tax and I think what we really need in Wales is an intelligently-structured combination of all three, a long-term plan that has cross-party support because this issue is not going to go away.

“To their great credit Welsh Government has recently recognised social care as one of the four foundations of the economy, one which pumps £2.2 billion per year into the Welsh economy.

“Previously, we’ve only seen social care in Wales as a cost. What we have to do is see it as a value. This is where the independent sector can play an even more important role.”