In this guest blog, Anna Galliford from FitzRoy argues that care work should have a higher social status if talented professionals are not going to continue to be lost to the sector.
FitzRoy is a charity supporting people with learning disabilities and, like many other care providers, is struggling with recruitment and retention. This is a massive issue for the sector; it costs money, but it also costs peace of mind for the people relying on the support we provide.
Evidence on this issue came to light when we conducted research into the problems facing families of people with learning disabilities. Families and care professionals gave us a deep insight into the many battles they are fighting daily, and the results, published in the ‘Who will care after I’m gone?’ report, paint a quite shocking picture.
Parents have an overriding fear of what will happen when they are no longer around to fight for their children. They are worn down by the constant struggle to be heard, the devastating impact of incorrect assessments and the lack of continuity in care.
Families want a carer to get to know their son or daughter, and it is clear that a high turnover of staff is a big issue. Parents are frustrated at meeting new support workers, sometimes on a weekly basis, and endlessly having to re-tell their story and build a connection with someone new in order to make sure they understand the level of support required. As one parent said: “Continuity is everything: you can’t set and achieve acceptable standards without continuous care.”
Care professionals revealed that they are aware of the problems families are facing and feel frustrated they can’t do more. They usually go into a care job because they are driven to help people, so why are so many ending up frustrated and leaving the sector? Many are worried about more funding cuts: in fact, more than a third of the care professionals we spoke to said that their biggest concern is the spending cuts and how this will affect their role and the support they give.
They also reported that their jobs would be more attractive if they were given higher social status, with 80% of the care professionals who responded reporting that their job would be more appealing if it had higher social status.
Parents acknowledged this as an issue too, with two thirds reporting that increasing the value and status of people working in care roles would make the most difference to their lives and alleviate their concerns. Parents also feel low pay is detrimental to the quality and continuity of care. One said: “If quality people were paid a decent wage then money would be saved in the long run because recruitment and agency fees would be avoided. If the wages were increased you’d get a higher quality of staff.”
We want to address our findings and see care work given the priority it deserves as a career and a public service.
The recent legislation on paying a living wage is good news and a welcome step in improving conditions for care professionals. But care providers are going to seriously struggle with the increase in costs unless local authorities protect spending on learning disability services. If they don’t, we face a race to the bottom and will end up exacerbating the problems that we see arising from high turnover of staff and lack of continuity of care.
FitzRoy has long championed the view that we must consider the lifetime needs of a person with learning disabilities. This is why, in light of our findings and the challenges ahead, we are calling for the government to address this issue and campaign to raise the status of care work so that it accurately reflects how skilled care professionals are. If we don’t, we risk losing valuable staff and letting more families down.
We need to work together as a sector if we are to see care professionals respected for the public good that they provide and the vital role they play in people’s lives and wellbeing. By doing this we can look forward to improving conditions for care workers and go some way to addressing the often devastating pressures families are under.
To read the full report and for more information visit www.FitzRoy.org
About the author
Anna Galliford is CEO of FitzRoy