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GUEST COLUMN: The biggest challenge the care sector has faced in decades

Paul Hanke

By Paul Hanke, founder and managing director of Network Healthcare

If you’re in the business of hiring care workers, or act as a recruitment company supplying agency staff to residential nursing/care homes and home care providers, then now is the time to take stock of the biggest challenge faced by the care sector for decades, staff retention.

Since 2012/13 the sector has fundamentally changed. At that time care workers were better paid than many other low paid professions, but by 2019/20 the gap had narrowed and some are paid more. That’s not to say that sector pay hasn’t increased in real terms, it has, but it has not kept pace with other sectors such as supermarkets, cleaning and warehouse operatives.

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Evidence further shows that as unemployment falls vacancies in the care sector rise, probably because other sectors are more attractive. Currently there are estimated to be around 112,000 vacancies in social care, which, at 8.2%, is nearly twice the national rate of the whole economy and significantly higher than the 4.4% back in 2012/13.

And it’s not only the slower pace of salary increase that is at work here. Two other key components affect the availability of individuals interested and willing to work as care professionals.

Firstly, Brexit and the loss of EU migrant workers have impacted, which has been further hit by eligible EU workers who repatriated themselves during Covid19 and are unlikely to return to the UK.

Secondly, a significant proportion of carers are now ineligible to deliver care into care and nursing homes due to the UK government’s legal requirement for double vaccinations, something that no other sector is challenged with when hiring staff…even the NHS.

The relative slowdown in earnings as compared to other sectors, government legislation and the double whammy of Brexit and Covid-19, means hiring managers are now fishing in the same pond of c.865,000 care workers who continue to show dedication to being a carer.

Of course, this does not fix the challenge of solving the shortfall of the much needed new cohort of care workforce to fill the void but In fact, it has created a headache for the employer of which there are c.18,200 private CQC regulated providers.

And, that is, retaining the staff they have!

It is reported that up to one in two care workers will leave their current job in the home care sector in any year whilst remaining in the social care sector. It is clear that carers are becoming more transient, probably and simply, due to enhanced rates of pay at another employer. Every penny per hour can make a life changing difference to the low paid worker as utility and energy rates rise.

Making the realistic assumption that an available talent pool is not likely to be flooded any time soon, it will be essential that the care sector as a whole, recruitment agencies and individual employers, address the question of retention. Now is the time to establish retention programmes delivering real value, thought and career prospects to your most important asset… the care worker.

Paul Hanke is the founder and managing director of Network Healthcare, a recruitment agency and CQC regulated care provider, part of the Pertemps Network Group of companies.

(Source: key data provided by various reports from The Kings Fund)

Tags : Network Healthcareretention
Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke