Direct payments users are guilty of workforce practices that would be unacceptable within care agencies or local authorities, says the recent Skills for Care study.
Nearly half of the interviewees had appointed assistants without a Criminal Records Bureau check, and a similar proportion had appointed people without taking up their references.
You might think that this is because most direct payments users are naive employers: you might think that they don’t appreciate the need for CRB checks, or the importance of taking up references. As professionals, with experience of recruitment and selection in public service, you might fear for your clients’ safety, stepping into the minefield that is employment law.
As a direct payments user myself, let me tell you that it’s more fraught, and dodgier than you think. And, as someone with professional experience of recruitment and selection, you would think that I would know better than to employ a carer without seeing their CRB check, or taking up their references, but I have done both.
I’m tetraplegic: without 24 hour care, my health and safety would be compromised. There are times when one of the team leaves without notice – for example, one poor woman had a brain haemorrhage – and, although I can usually arrange emergency cover, this can only last for a week or two at most. There are only so many demands I can make on the rest of my team.
In this example, the clock is ticking: it’s a few days before it can put an advert in the local (weekly) paper, three or four days more waiting for the responses, and a week has already gone by.
Post out application forms, and I need to give applicants another week to return them. Another week to arrange and to conduct interviews, and already my emergency cover is beginning to stretch ever thinner.
If I offer the job to somebody who is currently employed, they will probably need to give a fortnight, if not one month’s notice. It’s only at this point that I could apply for a CRB check, and as understand it, I have to do this through another agency, as I can’t do this as an individual. This might take six weeks.
As you can see, my emergency cover begins to fail at least a month before I can get a current CRB check. Is it any wonder that I have employed people Pro Tem, on the basis that we will get round to the CRB later? I can’t conjure appropriate, CRB-checked staff out of thin air…
• Read our story Clients fail to run CRB checks on PAs for more on the Skills for Care report
• For essential information on direct payments