Opinion

Preparing for our future – why the care sector needs to care for its employees

Jonathan Freeman, CEO, CareTech Foundation

The UK population is ageing – fast.  The number of people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other social needs requiring care support is growing – fast, with cases of severe learning disabilities projected to increase by 34% by 2027.  A funding gap for social care of £18 billion will open up by 2030/31 whilst government reports estimate an additional 650,000 care workers will be needed by 2035, requiring over a third more workers than we currently employ.  

An estimated 440,000 care workers leave their job every year, requiring recruiters to fill 120,000+ job vacancies at any given time. The estimated staff turnover rate in the adult social care sector is over 30%.  Skills for Care calculates that the average cost to recruit a member of staff is £3642; this may well be a significant under-estimate when wider indirect costs are considered.

Study after study shows that investment in improving staff retention is a much better investment than failed recruitment costs.  Sadly, research also consistently shows that the standard of management within the sector is poor, meaning we need to invest more in our managers to help them look after themselves and their staff better. For younger and frontline staff, lack of structured careers, mentorship and training opportunities have left many disillusioned with their career choice. Younger care professionals are under-skilled, underpaid and make up the majority of those who leave.

In order to build up a skilled and passionate workforce for the future, sector leaders must emphasise the industry’s career value to a younger generation whilst empowering, investing in and valuing the experience of new and current care professionals.

In 2018, the CareTech Foundation partnered with social mobility charity EY Foundation to create programmes to promote careers within the care sector.  Participants are given intensive training in core employability skills to enable them to transition successfully from school to work or into further education. The programme includes employability skills development, paid work experience and one-to-one mentoring to ensure they have the support they need to thrive in the workplace.

Through the programmes, many of the young participants improved their confidence and gained an understanding and appreciation of care work as a potential career, with 50% of participants actively considering a career in care. In addition, 100% of participants achieved a Level 2 Chartered Management Institute qualification.

Out of the young people who have participated in the programmes so far, 83% of graduates had improved their time management and organisation skills whilst 100% felt they had improved their ability to build positive relationships. These are key transferable skills needed for a career in care or any other field of employment.

The programmes have also been beneficial to mentors, with many believing their business ,and the sector as a whole, have benefited from the programme. Many of the volunteers from across CareTech plc have told us that their mentorship assignments reminded them of why they entered the care industry in the first place and that they found it empowering to be able to pass on their passion for the sector.  

As easy as it is to rail against successive governments’ ability or willingness to address the stark failings of the current system, we must also look to ourselves.   Bluntly, we need to be part of the solution.  If not, there is a very real risk that poorly-conceived change will be imposed on us or that these challenges continue to be filed in the ‘too hard’ in-tray of ministers.

@jonathanfreeman

@CareTechFdn

www.caretechfoundation.org.uk

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