These are “very exciting times” for the home care market, with no shortage of demand, job opportunities and technological innovation, the CEO of United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) has said.
Speaking on Professional Care Workers Day earlier this week, Dr Jane Townson said that despite the challenges facing the sector, home care is a “growth area” and is showing no signs of slowing down.
“Home care is where it’s happening,” she enthused. “Yes, we’ve got some challenges, but the majority of people want to live independently at home. We know that high quality home care can extend healthy lifespan and save money.
“There are numerous entrepreneurs coming up with new technologies and there is a fantastic array of job opportunities for career development.”
Dr Townson explained that there is a shift away from residential care, with the number of domiciliary-based services currently exceeding the number of residential homes.
According to Skills for Care, the number of regulated domiciliary locations has increased 56% to 9,450 since 2009.
“I need to stress that there will always be a need for care homes, but there is no question that under central government and local government there is a policy decision to try and keep people at home for as long as possible,” said Dr Townson.
The growing demand for home care means that providers are finding the complexity of need is increasing, as they are looking after people at home for much longer, with much more complicated conditions.
But this brings new job opportunities in complex and live-in care, according to Dr Townson.
“There is a huge variety of employers and a wide variety of roles in home care,” she said.
“We go on about personal care as this is quite tightly defined in the legislation, but home care covers all kinds of other things, so complex care, companionship, domestic help and lifestyle support. Hospitality is a big part of it, particularly in housing with care, where there is a lot of front of house work.
“So there’s all these roles, which require different skills, and we need to map what these skills are and decide on how we can deliver training as a sector.”
Between 2009 and 2018, there was a 22% increase (290,000 jobs) in adult social care jobs, 210,000 of which were in home care, according to a Skills for Care report published last month.
“So pretty much all of the growth in the independent sector has come from home care,” explained Dr Townson.
“In fact, the number of people working in home care is currently exactly the same as the number of people working in residential; 685,000.”
“At the moment, only 0.6% of over 65s in the UK live in housing with care. In countries like New Zealand and Australia, this figure is between 5% and 12%. So there is a lot of energy in this country for that part of the market to grow,” explained Dr Townson.
“The Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO) is estimating that they need 40,000 more employees in their part of the market to meet the demand of the developments they are growing.”
What’s more, there are numerous technology solutions coming on the market to help clients to live well in their own home, support carers and manage home care operations.
“There are some really exciting gadgets coming into the market,” said Dr Townson. “The Japanese are doing lots of work – they’ve invented a bed that automatically moves into a chair, so people can get themselves out of bed and don’t have to wait for a care worker to turn up. How much more dignified is that?
“There are also app to help people take their medication, which could help limit ‘popping-in visits’ and allow care workers to carry out more longer visits, with medication dispensing done by app in between,” Dr Townson continued.
“Apps that help care workers do their job better and more easily are also going down really well,” she said.
“French researchers have recently taken the data from these care planning systems – 27 different observations and measurements that home care workers have made – and correlated them with visits to the emergency department.
“They were able to predict with 70% accuracy the people that ended up in A&E seven days from when the observations were taken.
“So all the data that we’re all collecting just going about our jobs could be massively important in reducing admissions to hospital and doing the right preventative care for people.”
Dr Townson stressed that while the prospects for home care are promising, a number of challenges remain.
She said state funding for care is stretched to the point that people with low to moderate needs are now typically left unsupported.
UKHCA also believes that a clear workforce strategy must be developed and implemented to address recruitment and retention issues. This would include projecting population needs for home-based support over the longer term; defining a framework for roles, qualifications, skills and competencies required to meet population needs; mapping out clear career pathways; determining education and training needs and costs; and improving terms and conditions of employment.
But in spite of these challenges; the domiciliary care sector has a lot to write home about.
“In home care we’ve got 82% of providers rated Good and 3% rated overall Outstanding,” said Dr Townson.
“One of our members, Home Instead Senior Care, has got 25% of its branches rated Outstanding, which is an incredible achievement.
“There are challenges to address in the home care market, but I believe we can address them,” Dr Townson continued. “We’ve got the combined knowledge. We just need the political will to make it happen.”