The head of a Christian charity is calling on churches to help support care provision in their communities.
Stephen Hammersley from the Pilgrims' Friend Society was speaking after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) warned of a 'tsunami of unmet need' in the care sector this winter.
Its report urges immediate work to address the problem of rising numbers of unfilled jobs in the sector.
Stephen Hammersley says churches can really help alleviate the pressures on carers and he has been speaking to Premier about the CQC's findings:
"Unfortunately, it's the reality and it's what we see in practice as well. What they mean by those words 'tsunami' is that there has been an increase by a third during the pandemic period in the numbers of people who are at home and who are only getting care from friends and family members. In other words, informal care.
"Not only is that a significant increase in numbers, but also the complexity of the care that is being delivered is greater than was the case beforehand. And that's simply and largely as a result of the fact that care is now having to look after people's normal needs and now they've got the complexities of looking after somebody at a time when they've also got Covid precautions to watch out for. These are really, really difficult circumstances."
The CQC report says that six months ago across England, six per cent of care jobs were vacant, however in September, that had risen to ten per cent.
Pilgrims' Friend Society runs 15 care and housing schemes for older people. Stephen Hammersley is keen to stress that although it is a very difficult situation, Christians can really make a difference through simple acts of kindness:
"For a Christian charity that works with churches as well, there is some good news here. One of the things that CQC says and other commentators say is that government has got a key role to make sure that carers have got professional support as a carer or indeed, the state pays for carers to go in to provide the specialist care and support that many people need.
"But it is also the case that simple interventions are also needed and things like going to sit with somebody while the carer goes out to get their hair done for example - giving people that essential little break. Of course, that kind of community led social action is the kind of things that churches are really good at organising.
"This is one of the biggest mission opportunities for Christians actually. People who desperately need help - and a lot of it is the kind of help the church and Christians are really good at providing.
"The Joseph Rowntree Foundation researched this topic and predicted we would see this 'tsunami' a number of years ago. They were very clear that community led social action of which churches and Christian communities and Christian people are one of the key drivers in this country would be an essential part of any solution. We've seen the problem arise, and God willing, will hopefully see churches step up to the opportunity and the challenge."
This week, the government announced an extra £162.5m to boost the adult social care workforce. £5.4bn is also earmarked for social care over the next three years from the government's health and social care levy.