Industry professionals have called for greater regulation in the home care sector, including the compulsory registration of care workers in England and regulation of introductory agencies.
Speaking to Home Care Insight at the Dementia, Care & Nursing Home Expo yesterday, Dr Jane Townson, former CEO of Somerset Care, and Dr Jamie Wilson (pictured), former NHS dementia specialist and founder of live-in care platform, Hometouch, said greater regulation is important for public safety and raising standards in the sector.
Northern Ireland was the first in the UK to introduce compulsory registration for social care workers in March 2017, closely followed by Scotland in October the same year.
In Wales, home care workers must register to work in the sector from 2020.
This leaves England as the only country in the UK not to enforce registration for care workers. But leaders in the sector are campaigning for change.
“The compulsory registration of care workers is really important. If you have a care worker who has done something illegal or unethical and they are let go, they are completely unaccountable and could go and find another role,” said Dr Wilson.
“They may have done something close to criminal and there’s absolutely no way that anyone could find out about it. If this was a nurse, a doctor or any other healthcare professional, you would report them to their professional body, but we don’t have anything like that for care workers, and I think that would provide some accountability.”
Dr Townson agreed, adding that the compulsory registration of care workers will help enforce standards, training and consistency of care.
“We need to introduce more people into the care sector and I think the registration of care workers will help that because it will make it more professional and ensure people have got proper training, development and so on.”
A report published in January by the Department of Health in Northern Ireland states that the compulsory registration of care workers has greatly improved quality of care in the country.
Two years after official registration was introduced, 73% of care providers said they have seen an improvement in quality of care delivered and that the care workers themselves feel more confident in their roles.
Dr Wilson has also been lobbying the Care Quality Commission and the Government to regulate introductory home care agencies that match self-employed carers with their clients.
The CQC currently only regulates fully-managed home care providers that employ, train and supervise the carers directly.
Because of this, Hometouch has introduced a regulated care model to its service, for clients who have complex needs.
“We’ve moved away from just doing introductory care. We think that’s right for some parts of the market, particularly where there’s less complex needs and where it’s more companionship-focused, but clearly as someone’s needs increase, you need a managed care space, in our opinion,” said Dr Wilson.
“So we spend a lot of time looking at how we can make those two services interface well because there is scope for things falling through the cracks. One of the reasons we became regulated is that I, as the founder and medical lead of the company, didn’t believe that we could continue without regulatory oversight.
“We also strive make our introductory model as robust as possible and essentially set the same standards as we would do for the regulatory model, but ultimately we are not scrutinised by the CQC on that part of our business.”
Karolina Gerlich, a home care worker and founding director of the National Association for Care & Support Workers, highlighted the importance of an official registration of care workers in England in this recent article.