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How Norfolk is tackling the shortfall in care workers

PUBLISHED: 16:38 14 November 2017

Those working in the care sector would like to see the positive sides of working in a care home represented in a bid to tackle the workforce shortfall.

Those working in the care sector would like to see the positive sides of working in a care home represented in a bid to tackle the workforce shortfall.

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The numbers are compelling – 1,900 social care vacancies in Norfolk alone. And with considerable growth predicted over the next decade, what can be done? Sophie Stainthorpe reports.

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Working in social care can be extremely rewarding, offers variety and good career progression, plus there’s huge demand for workers. Despite this, there is a real shortage of people coming into the sector.

But with new recruitment methods and an emphasis on highlighting the positives, it’s something that those in the sector are working hard to rectify.

“Recruitment into social care remains an ongoing challenge, but increasingly employers are using a values-based recruitment approach to attract new candidates with the right personal values and behaviours that we know are common to high quality care workers,” says James Cross, head of the eastern area at Skills for Care, a charity which provides practical tools and support to help adult social care organisations in England recruit, develop and lead their workforce.

“Social care remains a growing sector and we know that nationally we will need to fill another 275,000 job roles over the next decade because more people will require care and support in their lifetime.”

Helen Rothwell, senior human resources manager at NorseCare, which provides care to 1,400 people in 35 care homes and housing with care schemes in Norfolk, agrees: “Traditionally, it is seen as a low paid job and very much a vocation rather than a profession. However, we recognise that this can be addressed with support to staff who join us via our talent programmes, apprenticeships and the pay and benefits offered.

“This is having a great impact on our recruitment and retention in the business. We do find that there are pockets of Norfolk in which the candidate numbers are lower; and different approaches to recruitment are more successful, for example, more community-based recruitment.”

Another issue causing concern is the uncertainty of Brexit for EU nationals working in the UK care sector and the resulting fall in the value of the pound making working in the UK less financially appealing. With EU nationals representing 8.5pc of the Norfolk and Suffolk workforce, the outcome of the negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union will be key. Both Helen and James are monitoring the situation and so far they have not picked up any impact in terms of a reduction in applicants or workers leaving their roles.

Retention is also a big challenge for employers – even more so than vacancy rates according to James. “On a positive note, Skills for Care’s research tells us that two thirds of the turnover is care workers moving between employers across East Anglia,” he says. “This tells us that once people start working in social care they tend to stay because they enjoy what they do and feel valued in their work.”

Helen would like to see the fantastic work being done by those working in social care highlighted as a way of encouraging more people to enter the sector. “People need to hear the heart-warming stories that people who work in care have on an ongoing basis,” she says. “Capturing these and showing candidates the rewarding elements of care helps to speak out to people who have an old-fashioned view or a complete lack of understanding about the care industry and how it has moved on and is now a progressive and exciting sector to be in. We are working hard with our social media presence to show this.”

There are certainly stigmas about workers being undervalued and underpaid, which need to be dispelled.

“The people who work in adult social care across East Anglia tell us all the time that they love their job and feel privileged to offer care and support to people in our communities,” says James. “It is not a job that suits everyone, but if you have an interest in people, and supporting them to live the life they want, then working in social care is a fantastic career option in a sector that is only going to grow.”

And the pay? Before the living wage was introduced, Skills for Care carried out research in the eastern region that showed the majority of the workforce was already paid above the living wage.

“We need help to show that a person with the right values and training can progress their career to be supervisors, managers or company directors,” says James.

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