This week’s writer is a voluntary sector provider of domiciliary care

A long-standing and steadily deteriorating client accuses our care
worker of stealing. A previous accusation against a different
member of staff is still fresh in our minds, but the procedure has
to be followed and a supervisor who can be ill-spared is despatched
to make enquiries (discreetly) with the care worker’s other
clients. Social services agree that all visits to that client must
be double-handers for our staff’s protection (good); this means
finding another available care worker (tricky); the accused is very
upset and doesn’t want to go back in, so two care workers need to
be found (nightmare).

Quick flick through the draft domiciliary standards – we’ll need to
review some of our processes and do a bit of tightening up but on
the whole, nothing earth-shaking. Some colleagues in the private
sector are almost hysterical with outrage at the requirements. I
wonder what standards they have been working to up until now?

Try to work out the best way of expanding NVQs in a largely
disinterested workforce. Most of our staff work less than 15 hours
a week and this has been consistently so every year for the past 15
years. It’s a fact of life in the home care sector that most
employees are very part-time by choice and are not hungry for
careers, professional development and all the other current
buzzwords. Some are, of course, and they tend to be the ones
working full-time – unfortunately they make up less than 50 per
cent of our workforce.

Go to a meeting in the evening which tells me how our local
authority plans to cope with bed-blocking and winter pressures. The
key to the plan appears to be (surprise, surprise) a rapidly
responding, domiciliary sector with spare capacity. Odd that we are
so often seen as the solution to other sectors’ problems, yet we
are rarely first in anyone’s list of priorities when it comes to
resourcing. It would be nice if someone, somewhere, just once
acknowledged that domiciliary care provides services to far more
people than any other sector. Residential provision is very small
beer by comparison, whilst the primary and secondary health sectors
that the government is pouring money into for no visible reward
have a status and pre-eminence out of all proportion to the numbers
they actually benefit. Realistic investment in preventative home
care, delivered imaginatively and generously would improve the
quality of citizens’ lives far more than the same amount spent in
any other branch of health or social care.

My day off but I don’t want to miss an inter-agency meeting trying
to solve the problems of recruitment and retention in the care
sector. Cheeringly, no-one wonders, even once, why they are in
their job and whether it has a point and a value.

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