Recruiting and retaining home care workers in the UK is now more challenging than it has ever been, according to a survey of providers.
The survey, conducted by United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) on 140 providers last week, found that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the longstanding issues of recruitment and retention in the sector, with demand for services rising and more people leaving the sector due to low pay and burnout.
More than half (62%) of respondents said the recruitment of home care workers over the last two months has been harder than it has ever been, while 29% said they have found the task more challenging than before the pandemic.
Difficulty retaining home care workers is particularly worrying, with two thirds (66%) of providers reporting that more members of staff are leaving their roles than before the pandemic, or “more often than they could ever remember”.
Hardly anyone (4%) thought retention rates had improved since the pandemic hit.
When asked what is having the biggest impact on home care capacity, 37% of respondents said pay and unattractive terms and conditions; 22% said competition with other businesses; and 15% said COVID-19 policies, such as PPE, isolation and vaccines.
Just over one in 10 providers (12%) blamed Brexit and/or migration policies for problems with recruitment and retention, and 13% said exhaustion was causing more care workers to leave the sector.
Gemma Bristow, a registered manager at Radfield Home Care (Wakefield and Dewsbury) told Home Care Insight: “We have found recruitment to be very slow over the last few months. I know it’s the same across our network in other parts of the country as I speak to other managers regularly.
“It could be due to fear of working with vulnerable people when COVID is a big risk to them. A lot of other sectors are also struggling. I have heard recently that lorry drivers and the hospitality sector are putting pay up to help encourage people to work in the sector. I think pay is a big factor and always will be. Care staff have a huge responsibility and their pay does not reflect this.”
Three quarters (75%) of UKHCA survey respondents also revealed that demand for services had increased, or significantly increased, in the last two months. Fifteen percent of providers said demand had stayed the same, while 10% said it had reduced.
Commenting on the findings, UKHCA policy director Colin Angel told HCI: “We need a well-supported home care sector which has sufficient capacity to provide the services we expect to be available when we need them. Our findings suggest this is an urgent issue for central government, and commissioners of social care in councils and the NHS.”
The home care providers taking part in the survey represented a cross-section of different size businesses across state-funded (45%) and private purchase markets (34%) or both (21%).