The current rates of care worker recruitment and retention play a major role in social care’s greatest challenges. That’s why it’s crucial for care home owners, operators and providers to have a strong understanding of care recruitment and retention issues and initiatives, to attract new workers into the sector — and incentivise experienced carers to stay. Here’s the headline news from the first quarter.
Social care salary pressures
In January, the Resolution Foundation released the Who cares? Report, outlining some of the greatest pressures that social care workers face. Low salaries were identified as ‘the worst thing’ about many care worker roles, as well as a widespread issue with unlawful underpayment of the National Living Wage for those in social care roles.
NHS social care workers in Northern Ireland held a 24-hour walkout strike on 26 January to demand inflation adjustment to social care wages. Anne Speed, head of bargaining at Unison, the representative union, said: “[The UK Government] must change gear, find the funds to invest in the workforce and improve wages to benefit staff, the NHS and patients too.”
These challenges have prompted leading social care sector news publisher, Care Home Professional, to petition the UK government to raise the minimum wage for UK care workers in its Fair Pay for Carers campaign. The petition, hosted by Change.org, asks for better conditions for care home and home care workers nationally, including legislative change around informal employment agreements, tackling issues with understaffing in care settings and for travel time to be included in care worker payslips.
Social care worker pay rises
With pay identified as a key challenge for social care workers and a known contributor to the recruitment and retention challenges, it’s perhaps not surprising that we are beginning to see some providers taking concrete steps to pitch the wages they pay to recognised benchmarks that put them ahead of their competitors. The growing number of providers publicly announcing their favourable salaries has ramifications for other care homes, who will need to match local wages to be able to attract staff.
Care home group, Signature Senior Lifestyle, has granted its care home staff a pay rise of close to 10% in recognition of continued cost-of-living challenges. Over 4,000 care workers will now earn a minimum hourly rate of £10.90 following the announcement, as well as 25 days paid leave every year. The company-wide policy will require a £4.68 million additional annual investment from the care home group but intends to act as an incentive for job development and loyalty with new and existing care staff.
West Midlands and Wales care home provider Lovett Care has introduced the Real Living Wage for all team members across its eight care services. CEO Keith Crockett said: “This increase hopefully shows how much we value our people, and we will continue to lead the way in this sector with the welfare of our team and residents at the heart of everything that we do.”
Similarly, England care home provider, Greensleeves Care, is investing an additional £8.4 million into staff salaries this year, raising care worker wages by 10%. This is the biggest single investment in pay so far by the not-for-profit care home group, which currently operates 28 care homes across England.
Other care providers who have pledged to raise care worker wages include Ideal Carehomes, which has invested a further £2.5 million annually to increase staff wages by 8.5%, as well as The Orders of St John Care Trust, which is investing an extra £6 million a year into staff wages.
Other benefits initiatives to attract and retain social care staff
Pay is, of course, not the only way to attract and retain good staff. More care providers are similarly announcing imaginative benefits packages to help them become a care employer of choice for candidates – something else care home managers, providers and investors who want to win the recruitment race need to pay attention to.
A new healthcare benefits proposition for frontline care workers, ‘MyHealthcare’, has been launched by Bupa. More than 15,000 employees, including those within Bupa-managed care homes, will now have access to cost-free physiotherapy and mental health support, as well as remote GP appointments, as part of a global wellbeing programme. Tim Hoosen-Webber, chief people procurement officer for Bupa, said: “We are proud to be an employer of choice and want people to come and grow their careers with Bupa. So we continue to listen to our people and want them to know they are valued and cared for, while they are caring for our customers.”
HC-One, the UK’s largest care home provider, has expanded its recognition and rewards initiative to include the ‘Benefits Reward Gateway’. The new programme will provide care staff with access to discounts, budgeting management and more, following HC-One’s investment of over £17 million in pay and reward in 2022. This resulted in carer wages increasing by an average of 11% last year, supporting over 70% of HC-One workers to reach the Foundation Living Wage.
Care worker training and development
Research by Vida Healthcare found that training and career progression can help increase staff retention. 69% of the social care workforce said they saw a long-term career within social care. Whilst only 42% of the general public surveyed would consider working within the health and care sectors, a majority of workers already in social care stated that they would like to develop their roles – if the right initiatives are put in place to support them.
There were encouraging insights from a Skills for Life campaign on this front, which uncovered that three quarters of care sector SME’s plan on investing in care worker upskilling in 2023. The Skills Horizon barometer found that 41% of respondent SMEs in health and care sectors ranked staffing challenges amongst their top three concerns for this year, with 46% looking to invest in digital skills within their company, and 42% encouraging staff to engage in current or free training and development resources.
However, all providers looking at their staff training should take note of new research which found that almost 60% of workers in ‘deskless’ industries claim their workplace experience has worsened since the pandemic, new research claims. The study, conducted by Cloud Assess, identified the common reasons to be staff shortages (51%), less in-person training (37%), worse communication (36%), less training across the board (32%) and fewer opportunities for development (26%). Whilst in many cases training and development programmes were now being delivered to workers online, 85% believe this has had a negative impact, with one in ten stating they feel less valued by their employer due to the hands-off shift.
Training to attract new workers into social care
As well as providing confidence to underpin job satisfaction and career progression, training can also be a helpful vehicle to attract new blood into the sector. An apprenticeship scheme, the ‘Nursing Associates Program’, has been launched by UK care provider, Sanctuary Care, to upskill workers with nationally recognised qualifications in the sector. The programme, which offers on-the-job care experience and a Nursing Associate Foundation Degree, has already seen five apprentices successfully complete the course and move into permanent roles.
There are indications that social care career courses are becoming increasingly popular with students at local colleges. Orkney College University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has reported increasing rates of applicants to its free ‘Introduction to a career in Social Care’ training, which includes senior-phase pupils who are unemployed or considering a change in career. Lynda Bradford, head of health and community care at UHI, said: “Care services across Scotland continue to face serious issues around recruitment. Every positive step that can be taken in encouraging more people into the care sector is welcomed – and this course certainly represents a significant positive step.”
Care recruitment drives
On top of training courses to encourage people to choose a career in care, there have also been a number of targeted care recruitment drives.
The UK government has announced an additional £15 million will be put towards funding international recruitment for social care in 2023-24. The International recruitment fund for the adult social care sector will enable social care providers to recruit care workers from overseas. However, applicants must identify a local authority that is able to receive the grant, with different budget allocations currently being provided to regional areas across England. The full list of financial allocations can be found here: link.
A new awareness week has been created to raise awareness of careers in social care and celebrate those working within the sector. #ShareWhyYouCareWeek – set up by social care staffing management platform, Care Hires – intends to encourage a sense of community for care workers.
The UK’s first ever national care conference for school-age children was held in March, to attract the next generation of workers into social care. The Who Cares? careers event, hosted by the Hallmark Foundation and Working Options in Education, was free to attend for school pupils aged between 14-19 years and aimed to raise awareness of the variety of roles for young people to build a career within social care.
In June, the UK’s first ever social care recruitment trade show is due to be held in White City, London. The Health & Social Care Jobs Live event will focus on boosting recruitment for NHS trusts and social care providers, to make job vacancies within social care accessible to a wider audience of jobseekers.
Record-breaking care recruitment
In amongst all the headlines highlighting the recruitment and retention challenges that are all-too familiar to care home owners, managers and investors up and down the country, it’s great to see one provider that has bucked the trend. A record-breaking recruitment drive by Athena Care Homes resulted in 15 new care hires being made in one day.
What can you learn from them? Athena puts its successful recruitment drive down to a marketing strategy that offered referral bonuses for existing staff, inviting former applicants to previous care roles and contacting the staff of a nearby care home that had announced its closure. A key focus of the recruitment drive was to offer flexible shifts and solutions for care workers with individual needs.
For expert advice on how to boost staff recruitment and retention in your care home to ensure robust commercials, our team of independent care consultants can help. Please get in touch for a free initial consultation.