Care in the Capital Report

Care in the Capital Report

The report ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go?’ was written for the
Care in the Capital Week by Andrea Rowe, chief executive of the
training body Topss England. While the report focuses on London, it
argues that improved nationwide pay and recruitment policies
– while essential – are not enough on their own to
solve the problems of attracting and keeping staff.

While there have been improvements recruitment initiatives
– such as the Department of Health’s England-wide
campaign in 2002 and local authorities sponsored events to attract
new people to their area – less thought has gone into how to
keep staff.

Some 27 per cent of the public sector workforce is more than 50
years old and so a high proportion of “natural wastage”
will take pace over the next decade. And the demand for social care
is expected to grow in the same period, which suggests that the
workforce needs to grow at 3 per cent a year to keep up with the
demand for services. So it is essential that social care skills and
experiences are retained.

In London nearly 13 per cent of all local authorities social
services staff across England – about 28,000. The report
estimates 36,000 staff work in residential care in London plus a
further 40,000 work in the home care sector.

Home care organisers are particularly badly hit with a 36 per
cent turnover; and in the year to October 2001 a half of all home
care workers left their job. Other posts have a turnover in the
range 11 to 18 per cent.

Social services departments are starting to take a range of
measures to improve retention including improved training;
introducing flexible working measures; improved pay and other
benefits; improved support and supervision; and more clerical,
administrative and social work assistants have been employed to
support front-line staff.

However, only one-third of councils are using these sorts of
retention strategies, and all the measures vary in consistency
across different groups of staff that indicates a lack of a
coherent and consistent policy. The report highlights the costs of
failure to retain staff to the service user:

“High staff turnover can contribute to the disorientation
and confusion of older people with dementia and those of all ages
with mental illnesses. People with high dependency levels also
benefit from having stable key workers.”

The retention of good employees matters because of the growing
importance and marketability of intellectual capital, because there
is a causal link between employee stability and service user
satisfaction and because of the high costs of recruitment and

The central message of Should I Stay or Should I Go? is that
retention must be part of the wider strategy of the whole
organisation rather than one of initiatives just driven by human

Successful approaches championed by Should I Stay or Should I
Go? include:

• Ask mature workers what they need – merely opening
up the dialogue can help you understand the issues and find
• Support flexible working – many employees aged over
50 want to work part time or work from home particularly if their
partner is retired or they have caring responsibilities. They may
also be interested in sabbaticals and unpaid leave to chase a dream
holiday or obtain a higher degree or undertake voluntary work in
their community. Employers would do well to consider all these
options as well as phased retirement that lets employees reduce
their hours in stages rather than all at once which can cause
disruption for both employee and service users.
• Give them more autonomy – provide the training they
need to pick up new skills, particularly in IT.
• Tailor-make compensation systems – avoid a quick-fix
mentality and build creative contracts with the most experienced

With the publication of this report it may be that retention is
finally getting the attention it deserves.

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for more on Care in the Capital and the report

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