PEOPLE who need help with things like washing and dressing may have to wait longer in Carmarthenshire because of a shortage of carers.

The shortfall is affecting the council’s in-house team of domiciliary carers, which looks after roughly 400 residents, and independent providers, which look after roughly 700 people.

Those affected are being asked to be flexible – for example carers may visit less frequently, at different times to normal, and the time they spend with people may be reduced.

People are also being asked if family members can support their care needs temporarily, but no changes are being introduced before discussion and agreement with those affected and their relatives.

There are also gaps in the council’s residential care workforce.

Jake Morgan, the council’s director for communities, said: “We are currently managing to provide care to the people most in need but the situation is becoming very difficult.”

The recruitment shortfall, he said, was not unique to Carmarthenshire, and he was confident that a successful recruitment drive would resolve the issue.

Mr Morgan said: “At the moment we are covering the most critical visits.”

He said there were a combination of factors at play – not enough recruits entering the care sector, a tired workforce after a year-and-a-half of Covid, a surge in pent-up demand from people who didn’t seek help due to the virus but are now, and delays in discharging people from hospital who needed care when they were back at home or in a care home.

Mr Morgan also said that more people needed longer visits from carers because they were more frail.

He said around one in five in-house and independent domiciliary care positions in the county were currently unfilled.

Mr Morgan, who worked in residential care after doing his A-levels, said it was important that recruits could see a career pathway ahead, with training, qualifications and progression.

He said carers in Carmarthenshire earned more than the National Living Wage – £8.91 per hour for those aged 23 and above – and that the market was reacting to the carer shortage by increasing pay.

“We are reviewing pay and overtime rates, looking at career structure, and trying to give flexibility in terms of shift patterns,” he said.

“It is one of the fastest-growing sectors in Carmarthenshire.”

He said Covid vaccination hadn’t been an issue, with more than 95% of carers receiving two doses.

Cllr Jane Tremlett, cabinet member for health and social care, said of the carer shortage: “We are being honest about the situation so that people are aware of the challenges and able to make decisions about temporary changes we may ask them to agree to as part of an existing care package or a new care package.”

She added: “Our carers are the shining light of our service. They do a tremendous job looking after people with care and compassion and I would like to thank our workforce for their continued commitment in what are extremely challenging times.

“We are doing our very best to recruit people to grow our social care workforce so that we can get back to providing the level of care we want to give to our service users.

“We hope these are very short-term measures that will be applied only with agreement – we hope that our services users and their families will understand and be flexible with their care requests so we can continue to meet demand.”