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Views from care’s frontline

What’s the real state of care is this country?Adult care is receiving more attention that perhaps ever before, with wholesale reforms to the system with the Care Act 2014, combined with large-scale budget cuts and all happening under close media scrutiny. So what effect is this having?We decided to ask some of our frontline Care team for their views on the real state of care…Sian Davenport, regional directorI started in domiciliary care about 13 years ago as a co-ordinator.Back then, there was already a sense of change coming in – moving from domestic help (with shopping, for example) to a role that is more complex, more accountable and more regulated.The level of involvement – and the expectation – has changed massively. There are a lot more complex interventions and doubled-up packages now.In the last few years, I think we’ve seen huge change again. Care is receiving a lot more attention and there’s a higher demand for care, but less money.In my experience, local authorities are looking to reduce the number of providers they use and instead form partnerships in order to take a more strategic approach to care.The responsibility of the care worker role has increased over the past decade and, therefore, so has the pressure. But the public view of care workers is that they don’t have the same status as, say, nurses. The amount of time I hear “I’m just a carer” – it’s just not right.Inevitably, the Care Act will mean more changes for us, but it’s early days. One of the things we’ve started to discuss with clients is the support of carers. The Care Act puts the needs of carers (a wife looking after her husband, for example) on an equal footing with the needs of the person needing care. So increasingly clients are talking to us about the provision of respite care.Kim Gill, operations managerI’ve worked in care for 13 years, starting as a care worker so I’ve seen the care sector from all sides.I’m glad to see that we as an industry we are now returning to a service that is more centred on the person, however we find that often we’re up against contracts that are still inflexible. I think the Care Act is more user-friendly, giving people more choice, but inevitably cuts need to be made.For example, in our extra care schemes it’s really difficult to get funds for social activities. We’re seeing new contracts with no social hours included.Overall, I think it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of care in this country. Inevitably there will always be good and bad service, but as the tasks become more difficult I think the Government needs to focus on training needs as much as wages.Nicola Curzon, care workerI worked in care homes for eight years and for the past two years I’ve worked in domiciliary care.I absolutely love the job, despite the long hours – the bond you form with the people you’re helping is really special.The biggest challenge for me is the hours – I have two children so childcare is a constant juggling act. I dread the school holidays as I know it’ll be hard to work and find childcare.But working shifts is part of the job – it’s something you get used to. The Care Act’s had no impact on me.Sarah Keen, care workerI’ve worked as a care worker for three months – it’s my first job in care.I really enjoy the job, but it’s a challenge. One of the biggest difficulties I’ve faced so far are the relatives – one in particular has been very obstructive.Another challenge is the timings of visits – if I arrive when the GP or district nurse is there, then that knocks back my whole day and I spend the rest of the day apologising for running late. It’s a shame that services aren’t more joined up.I’m aware that changes are coming – we covered the Care Act in our training, but I’ve not felt any impact yet.Hannah Bray, branch managerI’ve worked in care for 15 years, starting off as a care assistant.I’ve seen considerable change in that time. Care is now much more person-centred than ever before and I think the care provided is much improved – the treatments are significantly better.Obviously budget cuts have had a detrimental effect. So while I think care has improved considerably, the number of people eligible for care funding has dropped.My biggest challenge is recruitment, but we attract people with guaranteed hours contracts for all our staff and good pay rates.However, there are lots of hospitals in the area which attract a lot of our potential staff. The NHS provides a salary, opportunities for personal development, opportunities to work in different fields and you’re based in one place – it’s hard for us to compete.Over the next 18 months or so, we expect to see changes in the service with the Care Act. The biggest change for me will be the new care certificate – it’ll mean more paperwork, but the staff will receive more support and structure to their induction and, therefore, will be better equipped.Bernadette Walsh, Chief Operating Officer for MearsAnyone working in the care industry understands how rewarding the job can be and also how challenging it is at times. Pay and conditions have always been an issue, but at Mears we work with clients to explore ways in which the terms and conditions – as well as the general status of care workers – can be improved.The living wage will assist in ensuring that potential care workers hoping to embark on a career in care will see it as just that, having a career path with progression, promotion and remuneration aligned to outstanding service delivery.The Care Act 2014 brings new challenges but also opportunities for care providers and local authorities.• What’s your view? Join the conversation at the Thought Leader forum on LinkedIn


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