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THINK TANK DEBATE: How are registered managers coping with staff shortages?

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The social care sector is facing its worst staffing crisis in history, with the pandemic, Brexit and a growing demand for services exacerbating pre-COVID challenges.

With this in mind, HCI reached out to members of our Registered Managers’ Think Tank to ask how they are coping, how they are actively trying to overcome recruitment and retention challenges, and what support measures would benefit their business and get them through this difficult period.

Claire Jackson, Good Oaks Home Care (Poole)

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How is your service coping?

“It is certainly a difficult time at the moment, however I’m pleased to say we are coping very well. We have a loyal and dedicated team who have all joined together to go above and beyond and ensure a business as usual approach. Our carers are working extremely hard covering shifts and picking up additional calls wherever they can so that our services have remained unaffected.

“We are working together as a network and supporting each other across the country. If one of our branches has a carer that is available we are able to place them at another branch where they need additional help.”

What support measures would benefit your business?

“I feel the sector as a whole would benefit from some positive publicity. There are many varied roles within the sector and it’s an incredibly rewarding and exciting career. However, it is often publicised negatively. Another issue is still funding. With the care sector being woefully underfunded, companies are struggling to offer attractive employment packages. It is important that we reward the hard work that carers do, and we need to encourage people to stay and progress within the sector and also attract more people into it.”

Hannah Morgan, The Good Care Group (England)

How is your service coping?

“Much like the vast majority of our colleagues working across the adult social care sector, we’re facing a significant recruitment challenge. It’s a very worrying time for the sector and we’re having to adapt quickly to attract and retain carers. We’ve invested more than ever, launched a multitude of new initiatives and work harder than ever to recruit and retain high quality carers.”

What support measures would benefit your business?

“It would be fantastic to see the profile of the care sector to be held in higher regard and better respected as a career choice. The false impression given to the wider public that this is an unskilled profession has understandably left carers feeling grossly undervalued. It’s a fantastic career path and one in which you can make such an amazing difference to so many lives. Providers would benefit from further investment and financial support to enable them to help contribute towards the rising costs associated with recruitment, retention and maintaining ongoing infection control measures. In addition, an increased national awareness of live-in care as a viable care option would be extremely beneficial to clients and prospective carers alike.”

Karen Rides, Bluebird Care (Camden and Hampstead)

How is your service coping?

“We have found that recruitment has been extremely hard in the last three months. In getting the right people for the role, it’s about finding quality staff, not quantity.

“The slowdown of DBS checks returning has hit us hard as we are now waiting over four weeks for a Covid DBS to come back. This is having a big effect on starting new staff. My staff are now at full capacity and we are unable to support any new referrals. Also, staff are exhausted and need a break.”

What measures would benefit your business?

“What we need is DBS process to be quickened up. This would have a good outcome for all, and not just Bluebird Care Camden & Hampstead.”

Oona Corke, PillarCare

How is your service coping?

“Recruiting new care staff remains a challenge as the need for care at home continues to grow. The Covid pandemic has highlighted for many people that care at home, and in particular live-in care, is a real and viable choice. Like every other agency we know, we are keenly aware of the staffing crisis. We are proud of our excellent care team and we reached out to them to ask for their help in recruiting friends or family with background in care.

“We have been extremely fortunate during this period to have had several new members of care staff join us from friends and/or family recommendation. We have always relied on word-of-mouth referrals, and have found that this source of referral has brought us some of our most valued care team members.”

What support measures would benefit your business?

“The development of a recognised professional development structure for care staff would be the single most supportive gesture the government could make. This would help to address the issue that many companies like us face, of care being perceived as an interim or ‘fill-in’ career and help encourage young people into the industry.”

Sarah Richards, Carefound Home Care (Nottingham)

How is your service coping?

“Like all care providers, and so many other industries, we have had staffing challenges due to COVID-19 isolation requirements, an extremely challenging recruitment market and a growing need for our hourly home care and live-in care services. Relatively speaking, we have been less impacted than others because our service is shaped around longer care visits and meeting the health and well-being needs of our clients, rather than shorter care visits under local authority contracts. Nevertheless, the situation has resulted in significant staffing pressures for our service.

“We have responded in various ways, including enhancing our recruitment capabilities and recognising the amazing work of our staff with double-digit pay increases and ever-evolving training and development opportunities.”

What support measures would benefit your business?

“For the sector to cope, support measures are also going to be needed from Government. These should include an extension to the Infection Control and Testing Fund, repeating the Workforce Capacity Fund, improving awareness of hourly home care and live-in care as a skilled profession and supporting providers to upskill staff so that they are able to progress in their careers.”

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Sarah Clarke

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