Feature: There is room for internal change despite sector-wide issues

Mike Williams, managing director at Tagtronics – a software company working to improve care quality for homecare businesses – discusses how the sector has reached crisis point and explores the internal shifts necessary to support modern carers in improving overall quality of care.

The homecare industry grew rapidly within the 1990s and 2000s to become the sector we know today. This was supported by societal trends, such as people living longer and an increase of women in the workplace, meaning elderly family members need external care support.

In the following decades, legislation and the establishment of regulatory bodies (such as the CQC in 2008) has helped to continually lift standards and ensure a high quality of care for homecare service users across the UK.  

Fast-forward to 2022, and the UK homecare industry is still growing, with recent research showing how its set to grow at a rate of 1.5% each year over the next five years. However, this growth comes alongside a sustained increase in industry demand, due to an ageing population and the rising prevalence of disabilities in the UK.

This increased demand is competing with the challenges facing modern homecare businesses – which, in reality, are over-stretched and under-resourced. There’s a huge opportunity for these businesses to grow – but doing so while maintaining a strong culture of care requires first addressing workforce concerns.

Recruitment crisis

Alongside growing demand, homecare is currently facing the biggest recruitment crisis in its history.

Carers are at the heart of the homecare sector – but with increasing pressures from rising demand and staff shortages – recruitment and retention of quality care staff is incredibly difficult. Skills for Care reported that in 2020/21 the turnover rate of staff in adult social care was at an immense 34.4% – which is almost 25% higher than the UK national average.

The mandatory vaccination policy only added to the recruitment and retention issues, and even with the recent U-turn on this policy, the damage has been significant and has left carers feeling ignored and under-valued.

Government support

The government has recognised the need to step in and support homecare. However, even with plans to reform the adult social care industry, with £1.6bn per year for local councils, critics state this isn’t enough to adequately support the sector.

Government legislation creates further boundaries in the care industry, as many carers are currently unable to claim social welfare, despite working the correct number of hours. To ensure continuity of care, carers often work shorter hours over five days, which can make them ineligible for social welfare.

While government support trails homecare innovation, there’s a clear need for an internal industry shift to support homecare businesses and their staff effectively.

What internal changes can you make?

1. Improving carer experience

Carers choose their career because they love to help and support those who need it most. However, much of a modern carer’s time can be taken up with filling out daily charts and other forms of paperwork.

Minimising the amount of time carers spend on admin tasks provides more time to build relationships with service users, enabling carers to deliver a higher quality of care. By moving paperwork to an online digital system – which is being advocated by Sajid Javid as he sets out his target for 80% of social care providers to have digital records by March 2024 – you can reduce the time taken to complete admin tasks, alongside overall mistakes.

Paperless systems can also reduce the amount of stress carers experience on a daily basis. With online rotas and e-documents, carers will know exactly where they need to be and what they need to do, reducing any stress that may arise from lost or forgotten paperwork.

2. Boosting efficiency to improve pay

Pay is an extreme issue for carers, with a 2019 Workforce Survey reporting that 45% of care workers believed an increase in pay would be the best way to attract new recruits.

With a lack of government support, individual companies have started to raise their carers’ pay, with Bluebird Care giving a 17% pay rise to their carers following the pandemic. As a result, carers within the company have reported feeling more motivated to deliver the highest quality of care, as their contribution feels recognised and valued by their superiors.

Resources within the homecare industry are extremely stretched, however considering new systems can help to identify pockets of capacity and boost efficiencies to allow for much-needed carer pay increases.

3. Supporting career progression

To improve your homecare business’ recruitment process and retention rates, consider how your carers can progress within your homecare business. What type of additional training could be made available for your carers to help them develop? How could you recognise staff in ways other than increasing pay – eg with regular supervision reviews and appraisals.

By making the move to a digital system, you can integrate all your employee management data, including carer training, applications and recruitment, supervision reviews and appraisals, so all your documents to support career progression and improve the work environment for your carers is in one place.

In the high-stress environment of the homecare industry, you might think there’s little time to make these changes internally. However, the growing recruitment crisis means now’s the perfect time to consider how you can streamline your processes to continue improving quality of care and the work environment for carers.

Photo: Mike Williams via Tagtronics


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