The monumental demographic changes that is seeing an inexorable rise in the numbers of old people and the equally inexorable rise in their need for care, means that the need for care workers is not going to slow down any time soon. And if, as a proportion of the population, the numbers of people in the work place is reducing, that isn't good news for recruitment in an industry that suffers from bad press and poor pay and conditions, particularly in some areas where unemployment is very low. Indeed, 'Skills for Care', the workforce development body for the sector says that recruitment and retention is the 'number one issue'. The problem is compounded by a 25.4% turnover rate in staffing in adult social care.
So what can be done? Some of the issues appear to be:
- The perception of the work as low value, unappreciated.
- The perception of the sector as a bit dodgy given the scandals that beset it.
- Perception of the work as badly paid with poor working conditions.
- The perception that there is no career path to be had, no training or transferable skills to be developed.
- Do care sector management have the right management and recruitment skills?
Care2Improve collects considerable feedback from stakeholders in the sector and can show that for the people receiving care and their families, the value of the care provided by social care workers is immeasurable. The number of Care Awards that are in place also testify to the fabulous work done by the army of carers. Hertfordshire Care Awards, Care and Support West in association with the local councils have an award system in place which has become the flagship of the organisation.
Skills for Care are tackling the poor perceptions and have two schemes: the I Care Ambassadors scheme which allows enthusiastic front line staff to go out to colleges, schools, job centres and employment agencies to talk about and be an advocate for a career in adult social care. Their Social Care Commitment is an attempt to increase public confidence in the sector and to improve the quality of the workforce by getting providers to sign up to the "I will" commitment on key standards.
The quality of leadership and investment in staff in an organisation is a direct influence on the quality of staff and turnover rates. In an industry where traditionally, people rise through the ranks and have a practical caring back ground, the level of traditional management skills may well be lacking and looking at experts outside the sector can bring in fresh thoughts about recruitment and retention. For example this humorous blog from Talent Management and HR gives the Ten Best Ways to Lose Your Best Staff. Salutary information for any sector! Care2Improve can give the provider a good indication of how satisfied their staff and one of the critical indicators they use is whether the employee would recommend you as an employer.
There is no escaping that pay in the sector for front-line staff is poor in comparison to other areas, and the funding issue is not under discussion here, but personal satisfaction can be very high in care. Flipping burgers may pay more but it won't deliver that 'feel-good' factor and we all have stories of accomplished people finding huge satisfaction in helping others. (My mother in law's carer was a research chemist by training). Managers can increase job satisfaction in the way they structure the work, the way they enable and empower staff.
Some councils accept that they are part of the solution; schemes in place include Hertfordshire county council working with the Hertfordshire Care Providers Association on a Good Care Campaign and a Facebook campaign that linked to a recruitment site run by HCPA. Importantly they are providing funding, supported by the NHS, recognising the role of social care in prevention, to ensure working conditions are good and supporting failing providers. Oxfordshire county council are adapting the market structure, using direct intervention: a smaller number of providers, controlling conditions through contracts, adding training in Value Based Recruitment, implementing a health and social care apprenticeship scheme and a strategy for career development
A pundit on a recent radio news program suggested that the immigrant crisis was good for Britain as it would refresh the workforce with much needed younger people. Research says that the sector is trying to recruit more older empathetic staff with more experience and we know that poor English leads to poor communication skills and older people find this difficult. So young immigrants may not be the immediate panacea; they may help but there is a high training cost involved.