The UK should take inspiration from New Zealand in developing a clear social care workforce strategy to address recruitment and retention issues, the CEO of United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA) has suggested.
Speaking in London on Professional Care Workers Day last week, Dr Jane Townson (pictured) said New Zealand had legislated a workforce strategy that sets out mandatory requirements to regularise and guarantee hours, pay for travel time and provide training to agreed standards.
“So they actually had parliamentary time to agree to an in-between travel time supplement and to mandate what payments should be to providers from the state and what providers have to pay care staff,” she explained.
“They’ve then gone on to look at regularisation, and by that they mean they want the majority of workers employed on guaranteed hours; training to a enable level 3 New Zealand certificate qualifications within two years of commencing work, consistent with the needs of the organisation; wages paid on the basis of required levels of training the workers, and a case mix and case load mechanism to make sure that the workload is fairly distributed.”
Dr Townson said the UK government could choose to implement the same standards.
“There is legislation for this. I mean, how amazing would that be? We could choose to do that as a country. The Department of Health and Social Care could choose to put forward legislation for this, and this is what we are going to be campaigning for.”
There was a sharp increase (22%) in adult social care jobs (290,000) between 2009 and 2018, 210,000 of which were in home care, according to Skills for Care.
But the turnover rate is around 40% and there is 10% vacancy rate in home care, about twice as high as in residential care.
“If you are running a home care operation, you spend your whole time trying to recruit and retain people, and train them. It costs a fortune to train them as well – probably around £2,500 per person to hire someone and provide induction training,” said Dr Townson.
“There are also lots of people on zero hour contracts and the work environment is difficult. Councils can only fund people at the high end, so the work itself has become physically demanding and there’s a lot of emotional distress involved.
“And there is insufficient training in a lot of cases – it’s not that easy for all these small providers to find good quality training. We don’t have a national system of accreditation for training. We’d really like Skills for Care to take that role on so you know that when you are buying training it is accredited by Skills for Care.”
But despite these challenges, Dr Townson believes that the home care sector has the combined knowledge and solutions to address them.
“We just need the political will to make it happen,” she said.
The CEO explained that these are “very exciting times” for the home care market, with no shortage of demand, job opportunities and technological innovation.