Social care in crisis: Dealing with NLW rise

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Interesting article which makes very pertinent points. I would add that the crisis in social care is compounded greatly in Scotland where Scottish Government policy requires all Social Care Workers ...


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Businesses should take the opportunity of the National Living Wage rise to re-evaluate their practices

Social care providers are in the midst of a funding crisis, with paper thin margins and challenging contracts threatening their ability to remain profitable. The National Living Wage is set to rise in April by 30p to £7.50 per hour, a move that will stretch finances even further.

However, with employment terms and personnel costs under the spotlight, business leaders should take this opportunity to re-evaluate their practices. Focusing on staff retention, matching the structure of contracts to the needs of service users and employees, and reducing the business’ reliance on agency workers could all drive significant savings.

It is those providers that establish a clear purpose and values-base, and demonstrate it in practice, who will be best able to weather the challenging financial environment. A clear ethos, clearly communicated to all employees, will see an increase in the quality of work delivered, staff engagement, and retention.

Contract terms

When it comes to social care contracts, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. In the unpredictable nature of care work, it can be difficult for providers to accurately forecast how many staff they will need, and for how many hours, which often cumulates in the use of zero hours contracts. While these are sometimes unavoidable, managers should make sure that individuals on such contracts are treated, as far as possible, in the same way as full-time employees and are offered the same rights, training and support as full-time staff, This should ensure they feel like a valued part of the organisation.

To provide employees with greater financial security, businesses could choose to offer staff annualised contracts. This agreement guarantees workers a set number of hours over a 12-month period, without outlining particular shift patters or working hours, affording the care provider a greater ability to flexibly react to customer demand.

However, this solution should be implemented with care, as these contracts can catch employers out if poorly planned. Alternatively, HR directors could consider guaranteeing employees a moderate number of hours a week, with additional commitments arranged on a flexible basis. Most importantly, all contracts must be communicated clearly to ensure that staff understand the arrangements and how they can be used to their benefit.

Agency workers

Due to high staff turnover and fluctuating demand, many organisations depend heavily on agency workers. However, although this supports business’ ability to react to client needs, doing so is expensive. An alternative solution would be for regional providers to come together to create a joint ‘bank’ of staff, establishing a ‘pool’ of temporary employees in a local area.

Efforts to retain and attract talented staff should be engrained in the recruitment process itself, and businesses should aim to implement values-based evaluation criteria, employing staff who reflect the values of the company.

A great example of this in action can be seen via learning disability charity MacIntyre, which took time to understand the skills needed. The organisation developed its recruitment, induction and ongoing performance assessment tools to maximise those skills.

Show your purpose

A recent report by Leonard Cheshire Disability found that some local authorities deliver more than 75% of their domiciliary care visits in 15 minute slots. These appointments, which offer the fundamentals of social care such as helping the disabled or older person wash and go to the toilet, eat or get dressed, are widely considered to be much too short.

By making a stand to uphold visits of at least 30 minutes in length providers can show commitment to excellent social care service and ensure that employees are more likely to remain engaged and passionate about their work.

The increase to the National Living Wage can seem like just another financial obstacle for care providers to manoeuvre. However, those that continue to reinforce social purpose and maintain good employment procedures, such as ensuring contracts are fair and recruitment policies are values-based, will thrive, reducing turnover rates and raising standards throughout the organisation - ultimately building a more sustainable business.

Matt Wort is a partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors

Comments

Interesting article which makes very pertinent points. I would add that the crisis in social care is compounded greatly in Scotland where Scottish Government policy requires all Social Care Workers be paid the Scottish Living Wage (£8.25 presently and rising to £8.45 on 1st May). Whilst the policy is very welcome, the reality is there is no funding available to pay for it. Third sector providers are required by local authority commissioners to pay the new rates but the commissioners are unable (or in some cases!) unwilling to fund providers at a commensurate level. The position is entirely unsustainable and the viability of the sector is at great risk...


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