Adult social care is rising up the agenda, and not before time.Recent exposes in the care home sector have shown shocking incidents of abuse and people are rightly calling for change. But there’s a ‘secret’ world of care that has largely escaped public attention, care in people’s own homes.Local authorities want to help people live in their own homes. It supports people living independently and more comfortably – close to family and friends and the familiar. And domiciliary care is substantially less expensive than residential care.But this type of care is not without its own problems. People who receive care want a consistent, high quality service, seeing the same people on a regular basis. Existing commissioning and staffing arrangements make it difficult to recruit and retain good care workers. Many are on low wages and zero hours contracts resulting in a high turnover of staff and often given little training and almost no career progression.The Kingsmill review, Taking Care: An Independent Report into Conditions in the Care Sector, commissioned by the Labour Party, highlighted many of the problems that workers face, but much more is needed to envision practical solutions that serve users, workers and society at large.Mears Group in conjunction with LGiU is supporting the new Commission on the Future of the Home Care Workforce tasked with finding those practical solutions. The Commission is chaired by the Rt Hon. Paul Burstow MP – former Secretary of State with responsibility for Care – with representatives from local and central Government, Trade Unions and service users.Says Paul: “With the impact of demographic change becoming increasingly apparent, we are becoming a much older society and the number of people requiring care is rapidly rising. We desperately need capable, compassionate and caring people willing to help and support people to live with dignity in their own homes.”Last month, The Independent published the diary of one care worker as part of the Commission’s work. She wrote of rushed appointments and clients needing not only support in their home but vital human contact. Mr Burstow said of the diary: “It has been truly inspiring to read the dedication, compassion and genuine care motivating this fantastic woman. But it is also deeply depressing to see set out in black and white the myriad of challenges and hurdles which make up her working day.”Commission member Alan Long, Executive Director of Mears, said the diary was the uncomfortable truth facing many providers of home care.
“I would love to say that such a situation would never occur in Mears, however we, like other providers, are operating within commissioning frameworks which do nothing to improve the quality of care services and create a race to the bottom in relation to care worker terms and conditions.”
Another uncomfortable truth is the effect workforce issues are having on some of the most vulnerable in our society: the elderly, the disabled and the chronically ill and their families. This is why the Commission’s work is so important.Ingrid Koehler is Senior Policy Researcher at LGiU