Working in care requires extraordinary amounts of mental and emotional strength and resilience, something that is often underestimated outside and, on occasions, even within the care sector.
Growing up with two social care professionals as parents, I witnessed the joys and hardships of working in this industry and, as a result, grew up valuing and appreciating this field of work and the special individuals that choose to immerse themselves in it. I have fond and emotional memories of my parents’ social care careers. From the sheer delight achieved from a coffee morning for Alzheimer and dementia sufferers in a local day centre or watching young residents with learning disabilities move out into the community, to saying goodbye to a resident moving on to a new setting due to changing care needs or the sad loss of an elderly resident in care. There is such a variety of rewarding, uplifting and challenging experiences to witness.
The mental and emotional pressure put on the average care worker on a daily basis is not dissimilar to that of a GP or a teacher. All have the ultimate goal of maintaining the wellbeing of individuals in their care, all act in our stead taking on what are often our responsibilities. There is ongoing significant coverage about the undervaluing of doctors, nurses and teachers, how poorly they are paid in comparison to other professions given the enormity of their workload and responsibility. However, the coverage of the care sector is often about failures and only ever pays lip service to the salaries of care workers with out considering the responsibilities they take on for us.
The average hourly rate for a care worker in the independent sector was £7.82 in February 2018, compared with £7.32 in 2014. Compare that to the average retail assistant where The Grocer magazine recently reported all of the major supermarket chains paying in excess of £8 per hour, with some at £9 per hour, and it certainly seems like we place less value on social care than we do on shopping!
To throw another spanner in the works of an industry in the midst of a funding crisis, we are heading towards a staff shortage crisis too. A double whammy! With the 6.8% increase in pay rates in four years, it is no surprise that staff retention rates are lower than ever in social care. Since over 40% of our social care workforce are non-British EU nationals at present, the retention statistics are likely to look a lot worse post-Brexit.
The Care industry simply cannot survive without the amazing people that make up the workforce. In times of crisis in the industry it seems only logical to incentivise and take care of care workers rather than watch them disappear. Thankfully there are a few organisations that are working towards this goal.
• SkillsForCare are an organisation committed to the support and development of the care workforce. In recent articles they provide insightful advice on how to find, recruit and maintain the workforce. As their research and analysis also points out, retention will always be an issue if we do not reward care workers not only with the salaries they deserve, but also focus on improving wellbeing and valuing the care worker community, creating happier and more motivated staff.
• ADASS have also published a useful green paper, (Future for Adult Social Care) focused on supporting the workforce with good technology to enable better quality care. Providing the right tools to create better working conditions, more rewarding results and more efficient operations is instrumental in improving wellbeing amongst the workforce and thereby the individuals they care for.
• Live to Care, Care to Live is a short video about the amazing people who work in care. This campaign was launched to show how interesting, varied and flexible the life of a care worker can be and why more people should want to get involved in care. It explores snippets of very different lives and their interests outside their working days and paints a very different picture of the life of a care worker from what is often portrayed in the media. This piece of work serves as a recruitment advert in its own right, not least to provide awareness, but most definitely to shatter perceptions – the possibilities are endless. https://youtu.be/HRRE7vkhTUY
Like most problems in care, there is plenty of insight, yet only a limited amount of sharing or taking ownership over it. With the government well aware of the issues, surely it is only a matter of time before something is changed. Well only time will tell…but in the meantime I’ll certainly be looking for opportunities to share, appreciate and celebrate the care industry and the remarkable work being done for those who need it most. So here’s a great example of staff retention and employee wellbeing at its best!