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900 a day...and Counting!

The BBC recently reported that 900 social care workers (actually, the figure is 928) left their jobs each and every day during 2015/16 according to figures produced by Skills for Care. As per usual with lots of stories social care related, this led to flurry of ‘chip paper’ press and social media coverage (24 hours of blanket coverage, then…), and according to the Daily Mail, a response from a Whitehall source that accused the BBC of ‘…lazy sensationalism that doesn’t in any way reflect the complete picture’. The complete picture? Well, ‘For the 900 staff members a day cited as leaving the sector, more than 1,000 a day are actually joining’! Oh, that’s OK then!

Lazy sensationalism or not, the BBC should be commended for their continued efforts to keep the current and challenges facing social care in the minds of the public and the politicians. Over the last few years, we have seen the BBC deliver public service broadcasting at its best, with several Panorama undercover programmes highlighting abusive practices in social care, most famously the Winterbourne View undercover programme in 2011, but then in a number of older people’s care homes going back to the Old Deanery in April 2014, in care homes run by Moreleigh Group last year to most recently their 'Britain’s Home Care Crisis' programme in March. In between, both through national and regional TV and radio, the BBC has regularly reported on issues affecting social care. Lord Reith would be proud of the BBC delivering on its mission to inform and educate. It leaves ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘The Voice’ and the rest to deliver on its ‘entertain’ remit!

Anyway, back to the main point of this blog. Just think about it. 900 people leaving social care every day, and if it’s true, over 1,000 people joining the sector every day in not the answer. It is suggested that, if you include staff time, it costs around £3,500 to recruit and induct a social care worker, which suggests an annual cost to the sector of over £1bn. Just let that figure sink in for a moment. £1bn a year! Then think about the impact of that on residents, their families and of course the still significant number of long serving staff who have worked in the same home for many years. Working with a revolving door of staff joining and leaving.

Social care’s 2015 annual turnover rate of 27% tops the 25.9% turnover of the hospitality sector for the same year annual turnover by industry, but does it matter much if you’re not served by the same person when you visit your favourite restaurant, compared to being supported in of your most personal care needs by a steady stream of different people.

So why are people leaving the sector in such large numbers? Well, the first and most obvious reason is the level of pay. The most recent increase in the National Living/Minimum Wage to £7.50 an hour from the 1st April did nothing to make the sector more attractive to work in compared to retail, hospitality and the other historically low pay sectors that social care generally competes against for staff. But are the reasons for 900 people leaving social care every day more complex and nuanced than just the level of pay? Can we add a combination of factors alongside pay levels, including in many cases, under pressure organisations recruiting the wrong people in the first place (Job Centre road shows and/or recruitment fairs anyone?) organisational cultures that do not truly value staff, the ongoing ‘needs must’ focus of Managers on task based management rather than leadership and a lack of ongoing investment in developing teams. Of course, these issues affect organisations in every sector, even ones that are less complex, demand less of their workforce and have more resources than social care and they haven’t got it right, but maybe the stakes are not as high in the those sectors?

Having worked in the social care sector for over 20 years, I know the sector is not complacent and organisations are working hard to recruit for values, retain their best people and are investing in training and developing their managers, but as the figures show, whatever they’re doing isn’t having the desired effect.

At this point you may wish to stop reading, because here comes the shameless plug!

In the summer of 2016 I set up Article Consulting with the aim of supporting ‘the leaders of today and tomorrow’ within the health and social care sector. Since then I have had the time to look at and consider different approaches and ideas that I think could help the social care sector to respond to the challenges it faces differently. One of these is The Judgement Index which is already changing how social care organisations are recruiting staff at every level and increasing their recruitment of the right people, leading to lower staff turnover and higher quality service delivery. The other is Situational Leadership, which is a hugely successful approach to ‘people centred’ leadership that I believe could revolutionise the social care sector. I am happy, no proud to declare an interest here. I have been invited to become an Ambassador for The Judgement Index and having recently become an accredited Situational Leadership trainer. If you would like to discuss either, or both with me, please contact me. I’d love to talk to you.

I’ve also recently launched ‘In Our Own Words’; a research project that is looking at what makes the Manager of a CQC Outstanding care home and am currently working with a group of who I describe as ‘Bright Young Things’ to develop an online competency framework for Managers. Watch this space for more on these exciting and I hope positive contributions to the social care sector.

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