Social care received increased government and public attention during the pandemic, with the hope of increased recognition for those drawing on services and those working in services. Social care reforms have since been announced and the new Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) offer a chance for health and social care services to work together to serve local populations and address system issues that impact on health and well-being, with social care recognised as an essential part of these. But are these moves making any difference to our workforce pressures?
There is evidence that home care provision is still not understood – or indeed adequately funded – by government, NHS or the public and therefore neither are providers in it and those working in it. The sector’s largest professional association, the Homecare Association, reports that the NHS purchases 25% of homecare hours directly (The Homecare Deficit 2021 Report). However, 64% of CCGs that contract with members have still not declared fee rate uplifts after 1 April 2022, despite widely recognised cost increases and workforce shortages. The same story sadly plays out with Local Authorities, often largest volume purchasers of home care: desperate for capacity in their areas but seemingly still unable to address the relationship between fee rates and commissioning practices and staff pay and job satisfaction. If key public customers of home care cannot see the value of it, why should anyone else?
There are however opportunities with the government reform, with the new ICS and the increasing influence of co-production movements such as Think Local Act Personal and Social Care Future, to seize the day for social care. To drive change in our NHS and Local Authority partners, achieve better partnership working to benefit our communities and to gain status for our brilliantly diverse range of home care services, and the wonderful people who work in them.
Person-centred care is central to our home care provision, and should offer genuine choice and control to those drawing on social care services in their own homes. For the homecare workforce, being able to support people to live independently, to remain at home, to fulfil daily living ambitions – to make a difference – are all critical drivers to why they choose to work in social care and remain in roles.
At Agincare, our people are receiving more focus and investment than ever before. Areas of communication, well-being and learning and development continue to be strengthened: we supported over 300 apprenticeships last year. Our new People Programme gives focus on attraction, recruitment and retention, with teams showcasing their personal stories of how they joined home care and why they love it and we’ve used these to attract from other sectors and bring roles to life.
We’ve enhanced team engagement, recognising an increasing need to be open and honest about issues facing providers, as well as acknowledgement of the cost of living crisis facing society. We raised wages through the year, tried different contracts and new service delivery, and in light of rising fuel costs, raised mileage rates: all despite knowing that uplifts in pay or conditions are unlikely to be covered by current or future uplifts from our core customers (LAs and CCGs). And yet, we know that all of this is still not enough. Until the government and public truly value good social care – and then not just for how it can help the NHS but its economic contribution, its potential to transform lives, enable independence and contribute towards a healthy, happy population – our workforce will never feel valued or be rewarded as they should be for the brilliant care they provide and the difference they make to lives.