Simon Morris recently celebrated 20 years with Jewish Care, the largest social care provider for the UK’s Jewish community. The organisation provides a wide range of culturally sensitive care services for older people, people with disabilities, mental health needs, visual impairment, as well as Holocaust survivors and refugees. Care Talk caught up with Simon and asked him about the changes he has seen first-hand over the last 30 years and his fears and concerns for the future.
I qualified as a social worker in the 80’s, an enthusiastic and ambitious Community Social Worker for Buckinghamshire County Council. I was innovative, I needed to be, we had tough targets that had to be delivered with less and less resourcing.
I spent 12 years in local government progressing to a commissioning manager of adult services for a London Borough before moving into the voluntary sector. The move was very much a grass is greener move. I saw the voluntary sector as a new environment with different parameters.
I joined Jewish Care only 5 years after its formation following the merger of two organisations who between them had hundreds of years’ history. It was one of the first major charity mergers of its time in the voluntary sector. Jewish Care felt new, fresh and innovative.
In the decade after its creation several smaller independent charities merged with Jewish Care – some much-needed rationalisation in the community. A rationalisation that has slowed down in recent years yet is needed more than ever. This is something I believe strongly in and am determined to drive forward to reduce replication in our small community and encourage partnership across the community and beyond.
Last summer I celebrated 20 years of working for Jewish Care. It has been an amazingly, rewarding and challenging 20 years, but I can honestly say this last year has been the most challenging.
I think pressure started around the time that news of the National Living Wage sprung on us. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to increase the pay of our staff, who after all are our greatest asset. The announcement came against a backdrop of local authority real time cuts and alongside several other regulatory changes.
Recruitment wasn’t easy before the introduction of the National Living Wage but became a whole lot harder when our local supermarkets increased their pay to over £9 an hour almost overnight. It takes a very caring individual to choose to work as a front-line care worker for less money than they can get in a physically and emotionally less demanding job. Then came the shock of Brexit, the impact of which we are already feeling when recruiting for new roles. Our vacancies are higher than they have ever been before and despite our best efforts this just seems to be increasing.
There are some silver linings. Once staff join us they tend to, like me, stay for long periods of time. Our current average length of stay is eight years compared to a sector wide five and a half years. Our staff tell us they like working for Jewish Care and retention proves this.
Our staffing ratios are the same as when I joined Jewish Care, higher than average across the sector, yet we are all caring for people with higher and more complex needs. I can clearly see the day to day pressure our front-line staff are under. Increasing staff ratios isn’t viable.
I do know how lucky I am for all the tremendous support we get from the Jewish Community. If it wasn’t for this support; the generosity of individuals and families from across the community and our army of committed volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to operate the wide range of services, we do. But I also have to accept that there are limits to this support and with 65% of our care home residents being local authority funded and continual real time reductions in this funding I am all too aware things are going to have to give.
The theme of delivering more for less has been with me throughout my career. I have always strived to be creative and innovative and find ways to achieve this but I am running out of ideas. I think there comes a point when we all have to say “I can’t deliver any more for less”. Now could be that point.