What can you do to help prevent a Care Worker shortage crisis?

Image courtesy of www.fayeoconnor.comCare and residential homes in the UK are likely to be facing a shortage of 20,000 workers within the next 5 years with this number rising to 1 million within 20 years.

Figures like this make shocking reading when faced with a rapidly ageing population.  The care sector is in danger of being plunged into crisis by a lack of skilled employees.  By 2025 there will be an additional 1.5 million people aged 65 and over in England, and with many of these likely to require care as they get older, the need for high quality care has never been more relevant.

Zero hour contracts and pay rates
Care work is notoriously poorly paid and insecure, with uncertain, irregular and long hours, and stressful working conditions making the sector unattractive to many.  Issues around pay include low hourly rates, not being paid for training or travel time between care assignments, and contentious zero-hour contracts.  These can all lead to difficulty recruiting good staff and sadly a high employee turnover, as much as 10% higher than other sectors.

A report by the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee out this week (June 2017) found that almost half of UK care workers leave jobs within a year of starting.  A major factor in this is that half are on zero hour contracts, compared to only three percent of the national workforce.

So what can be done to address the problem of staff recruitment and retention?  The introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in April last year has gone some way to addressing the poor pay associated with this sector.  But as the highest rate NLW only applies to the over 25’s, this will not help attract young workers to consider this as a career option.  Plus, many care workers feel that their pay is still very low for the work they are expected to do.

This extra wage bill to councils and private care providers alike, comes at a time when the care system is already underfunded. Even though an extra £2bn was promised for adult social care over the next 3 years, it is likely to fall short of the true amount needed.

Training and support
With the shortage of staff continuing to rise, care providers must look to making the role of care worker an attractive career choice.   Training, apprenticeships and on-going career developments must be invested in to attract new workers and help stop the workforce churn continuing.  The CLG report also highlighted the lack of training provided to workers, with nearly a quarter surveyed stating they were expected to administer medication when not trained to do so.

A good support framework needs to be put in place to ensure workers feel valued, supported and trusted.  Recent news stories of unscrupulous care homes and workers has impacted on both the public perception of some care providers and the attitude of prospective carers – this needs to be addressed on both sides.

Recruitment methods
The recruitment of staff can be a difficult issue, with many care providers relying on word of mouth or relatively cheap methods, but if this isn’t attracting the quality candidates needed or new starters are not staying the course, then these methods should be re-assessed.  Our blog ‘Is free recruitment advertising costing you more than you realise?’ gives a more in-depth view on this.

Take a look at your existing employee demographic – probably mostly female?  It is reported that currently women make up 82% of the care workforce, so it’s apparent that more men need to be encouraged to join the sector.  Perception is a big factor, with it generally being seen as a female profession, but the ageing population means that more men than ever are receiving care, many of which prefer to be looked after by a male carer due to dignity and embarrassment issues.  One way to promote this as a career opportunity to males could be to emphasise the positive aspects of the role – flexible hours, job diversity, use of transferable skills and training opportunities for career progression.

Recruit 123 has recently undertaken campaigns recruiting for several care providers, which has proved very successful.  The application rate has been good, but more importantly, the quality of candidates has been high.  All of the campaigns have been effective, with some companies taking on more than one new member of staff.

This positive outcome is due to the specialised advertising methods we utilise – ensuring the top two UK job boards are used to advertise the positions; the use of key words and tags within the adverts to attract high volume traffic to the roles; and social media campaigns to specifically target the right people in the right areas.  All this at very affordable rates too!

If you would like to speak to a specialist advertising consultant about a role you have to fill, or need advice about training or HR issues, call Charlotte on 01902 907123.

* image courtesy of www.fayeoconnordance.com

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