“A large proportion of the workforce are employed by very small organisations, some of which provide domiciliary care, or ‘home help’ and others of whom operate residential care homes.
“I think it has just got into that ‘too hard to do’ pile but it has to be tackled or the care system just won’t be able to function properly.”
A series of scandals over abuse and neglect of older people has placed the spotlight onto concerns about rushed and sloppy care, commissioned on the basis of crude 15-minute slots.
Norman Lamb, the care minister, has voiced concern about carers being paid less than the legal minimum wage when travel time between appointments and essential expenses are taken into account.
The Telegraph’s Justice for the Elderly campaign is pressing for mandatory training and licensing for care workers.
Even under the Coalition’s care reforms, due to come into force next year, there will be no legal requirement for care workers to have qualifications.
Mrs Cawley said: “To deal with our ageing population – and one with increasingly complex conditions, we not only have to train the existing workforce, but we also need to prepare for that workforce to expand dramatically, so we have got to invest in training people who have never been trained before.
“That should include training unpaid carers. If they have given up years of their lives caring for someone, they should at least have a qualification.
“It would help the whole system and, of course, there could be an economic gain.
“By linking caring with training and job opportunities it would enable people to get back into the workforce when their time as a full-time carer has come to an end.”
She added: “If we are going to avoid having a gaping hole in the care system we are going to have to go for non-traditional carers.
“We can’t just rely on recruiting school leavers, there are just not enough of them, we need to look at people who may already be doing care or who might consider it as a possible new career.
“It would provide some recognition for what they do and they would gain qualifications and opportunities to work somewhere else in due course.”
The Elizabeth Care project provides the only academically accredited on-the-job training course for care workers if its kind in the UK.
Currently based at Surrey University, the project is seeking funding to expand to a network of universities across the country.