Right at Home CEO, Lucy Campbell calls for a collective approach to tackle the home care crisis
No matter who I’m talking to in the social care sector, whether it’s the Right at Home Franchise Owners, fellow Home Care Association board members or other care providers, there’s one consistent theme – demand for our services is higher than ever before, and we are all in the heart-breaking situation of having to turn away Clients. This is because the sector is in a position where the demand cannot be met due to the well-reported recruitment challenges.
The staffing challenges are worsened by the cost-of-living increases and public misconceptions around a career in care, due to the Government’s previous failure to recognise carers as skilled workers. At Right at Home, we offer predominantly private care, meaning we can pay our carers industry leading rates, good levels of mileage reimbursement, and a host of other benefits. But we too are struggling to recruit enough carers to meet demand and are frequently having to turn away care packages.
People have misconceptions about working in care: it’s low-skilled and lacks career progression, which is simply not true. We invest an enormous amount into personal development. The opportunities we provide to make a career in care as attractive as possible are exceptional. In the last 12 months, 75% of our franchises have made internal promotions within their teams, this access to progression is something that needs to be spread sector wide.
After Brexit, our sector is competing with the hospitality and retail sector like never before – meaning we’re all fishing from a much smaller recruitment pool. This makes it increasingly difficult to compete with other sectors, particularly those that the public believes offer a more attractive proposition. We firmly believe carers deserve good rates of pay for the work they do. We’re able to compete well, but sadly not all providers can. That’s why the Government’s levelling up agenda is so important, we need to see councils recognise the true cost of care, to enable all providers to pay well and give social care the recognition it deserves.
The cost-of-living crisis is also bringing unprecedented challenges to existing homecare workers. Across the UK, home carers drive a collective of 4,000,000 miles daily to provide essential support to some of the most vulnerable. The astronomical cost of petrol is pouring more fuel onto the cost-of-living fire. We try to bridge the gap by giving our staff an above-average fuel allowance, but there’s only so much we can do, especially as our own costs are mounting and we’re investing more money into recruitment.
We believe that the government must provide a homecare fuel subsidy, so carers don’t bear the brunt of the crisis. It’s unacceptable that social care staff must rely on a 45p per mile tax rebate that hasn’t increased since 2011. That’s over a decade without any raise and quite frankly, the next prime minister must change this.
We have been fighting for sector support while championing careers in care. So far, we’ve engaged with every MP in parliament to call for a fuel subsidy, which has seen the issue in Parliament.
Our Young Ambassador, Chevonne Baker, has appeared as a Living Witness for the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee to discuss how rewarding a career in care can be and challenge the misconception that working in care is a low-skilled job.
However, the battle has only just begun. Now is the time for us to stand up and get noticed. We encourage our fellow social care providers and suppliers to reach out to their MPs about the issues we are facing. Collectively we can band together to make real, positive and impactful change for everyone.