An uptick in demand for care at home, a new wave of industry start-ups and an increase in funding are just some of the predictions home care providers are making for the future of the sector, post pandemic.
Leaders in the sector believe the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the vital role care staff play in safeguarding the wellbeing of elderly and vulnerable people living at home, and that this recognition could lead to positive outcomes.
Providers have already seen a surge of enquires for home care, and live-in care in particular, in recent months, and expect this trend to continue.
Trudi Scrivener, founder of Buckinghamshire-based Ashridge Home Care, says: “Enquiries for home care have increased by 40% in our business.
“For many years I have been raising awareness of live-in care as an alternative to residential care and certainly during this pandemic it has proved to be the safest option. One-to-one care in a person’s own home will more than likely be the preferred choice rather than the unknown choice.”
Mark Collier, managing director of Beloved Homecare, based in Greater Manchester, believes that while many providers face an uncertain future due to families cancelling care visits during the pandemic, he agrees that the home care sector could see a greater demand for services going forward.
“Awareness and, consequently, demand for affordable live-in care services could increase with people feeling safer within the comfort of their own homes,” he explains. “An increase in demand for home care services is likely to be supplemented by increased usage of more bespoke technology.”
Ben Ashton, director of Good Oaks Home Care, which provides care for people living in the South of England, says a big shake-up in the job’s market during the pandemic has also led to a rising number of people looking to set up a home care business.
“Good Oaks has seen a big uptick in the numbers of people looking to start a home care franchise with us, with record enquiries over the last two months,” he says.
“As well as the increased fluidity of the jobs market, the enhanced recognition of the vital role the sector plays, and the obvious and growing need for quality care at home, seems to be factors in people’s decision-making.
“Despite the CQC’s difficulties in registering new locations due to the current disruption and restrictions, we are predicting a new wave of start-ups to start coming on stream in the next six to nine months, further boosting care provision and creating jobs.”
Yvonne Hignell, chief operating officer at Cera, agrees that the pandemic has shone a spotlight onto home care, and she believes this will have a direct impact on public funding, which finances more than two thirds of the sector.
“Government and local authorities are increasingly realising that the social care market simply can’t sustain itself at current funding levels, and that ultimately it is more money and resource that is needed.
“More so, the pandemic has also highlighted the need for greater cooperation between public and private sector, and the ways in which these partnerships are redefining the future of the sector. It’s something we’ve seen directly through our work with the Department for Health and Social Care, and we expect this trend to continue post-COVID-19.”
Glenn Pickersgill, CEO of Heritage Healthcare, seconds that argument, adding: “The general belief is that there will more help and funding from the government moving forward.
“Funding has been promised for many years from the government, but to no avail. But post-pandemic, we think the government will be putting more into the private health and social care sector.”
Hignell also predicts a “drastic shift” in the sector’s approach to recruitment, for two main reasons.
“Firstly, under lockdown we’ve been able to recruit, train and deploy new frontline carers through a purely digital platform – which reaffirms the needed to digitise and automate much of the sector’s recruitment and training,” she says.
“Secondly, we’ve seen a marked trend of individuals from industries that have suffered massive redundancies – such as travel, hospitality and retail – realising their skills are transferable to a long-term career in social care, and making the transition. Should this trend continue, we’ll be able to significantly grow the sector’s talent pool.”
Hignell believes that social care will take on a “much great significance” in the eyes of the private sector, government and general public going forward.
“The pandemic has underlined just how critical effective social care is, not only for our loved ones, but also to keep the country functioning as a whole. This should lead to a positive, and hopefully tangible, shift in sentiment towards the sector in the UK and internationally,” she adds.
Meanwhile, Colin Webb, managing director of Lincolnshire-based St Katherine’s Care, believes that the future of home care must lie in its professionalisation and a move away from a view of it being perceived as a manual labour or blue collar occupation.
“Without better rates of pay and good training opportunities, the youth intake will be a reservoir for less successful students who are often told ‘didn’t get many GCSE’s? Never mind, there’s always care’,” he stresses.
“Carers are often regarded as little more than labourers by social workers nurses and doctors, probably because they are providing personal services rather than being involved in lifesaving, health maintenance and end-of-life management. However, when the chips are down, we are intimately involved in quality of life, wellbeing and the comfort of palliative care. Very often we are there at the end, sometimes when no-one else is.”
Webb adds: “So the future of care is to shout about key messages: better pay and conditions will lead to better recruitment, but carers should not just be valued financially, but through better training prospects and a proper career ladder that isn’t simply defined by NVQs.
“Education comes from our taxes, and a good education is the gift we give our children to set them up for the future. Care should be the same, but it’s the gift that says, ‘thanks for all you’ve done for us’. I think the future of care depends on acknowledging that.”