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Employers and policymakers must tackle care sector crisis

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Everyone has a responsibility to tackle staffing issues in the care sector, said Stephen Wilson, CEO and co-founder of Novacare

Speaking to HR magazine, Wilson said that employers and policymakers must work together to address the current staffing crisis in the care sector.

“The responsibility lies with all of us. Not just with employers and not just with the government,” he said.

Wilson said that low pay has made it difficult for carers to stay in the sector and for talented people to see it as viable career option. He referenced a report by Skills For Care that estimated the turnover rate of staff working in the adult social care sector is 30.8%, which equates to approximately 440,000 people leaving in the last 12 months. The report also calculated that the median hourly pay for carers in the private sector had increased just 8% between 2012 and 2019 (from £7.48 to £8.10 respectively).

“Without that fair rate of pay it is impossible to encourage staff to join the organisation and to see care as a career, not just a short period of employment before they go on to do something else," said Wilson.

"People need to feel that there is a long-term investment in them as an individual.”

He added that this has led to staff being recruited who are unsuitable for the profession: “The staff that are leaving are often inexperienced, under-qualified and not registered, so there are a lot of hurdles for employers to overcome. The research that we’ve done is that inexperienced staff will leave within three months. If employers continue to hire inexperienced staff they will continue to face these problems in their organisations.”

The issue is particularly acute around the Winter months, when both attraction and retention take a dive, he said: “Around this time of year, from October to January, it will be even harder to recruit. Instead of having to be out in harsh weather conditions they’ll go to work in hotels or shops instead. But this is often the time when people will need the most care and there’s the highest demand. There are seasonal flus and bugs, and more people in need of support, but we have fewer staff.”

He said that employers can assist by improving practical measures around recruitment such as using more technology in the hiring process.

“Employers need to do more with their systems. They are antiquated and it takes far too long to process an application from someone who is interested. The average time to recruit is eight weeks. If they are offered another job within that time they’ll go elsewhere. [The systems] need to be smarter,” he explained.

There must also be greater awareness on a national scale of the rewards that working in the care sector can bring.

Wilson added: “At a government level there needs to be a bigger recruitment campaign around the way the sector is going and how we’re going to protect the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Despite the positive impact that carers have on people’s lives, Wilson said careers in the sector are still largely undervalued in society.

"There’s a lack of understanding about the impact care staff have on people’s lives. It allows people to not have to stay in hospital, not die in hospital, and to come home and be with their family again," he said.

"That’s not something you can put a monetary value on, but it’s something we need to publicise, so employers can attract the kind of people who share those values.”