Behind the headlines

Home care was placed at the centre of the care in the community
reforms when they were introduced in the early 1990s, but while
home care hours and the role of the independent sector in providing
them have increased since, working conditions have not kept pace.
The latest attack on the neglect of home care has come from Yvonne
Apsitis, vice-president of the UK Home Care Association in Wales,
who recently called for a “major overhaul” of the service. She said
that lack of status, poor pay and unsocial hours among home care
workers would undermine new national standards and plans to develop
home care services. A study commissioned by the Welsh assembly has
found that 62 per cent of home care workers have considered leaving
their jobs. More than half of the respondents were over the age of
45 with younger people saying that they were not attracted to home
care work because of the poor conditions of employment.   

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The worst legacy inherited in 1997 was the decimation of public
services. Six years on, this government now admits its own
initiative-itis has exacerbated the staffing crisis across health
and social care. Recent emphasis on workforce reform among doctors,
teachers, police and youth workers is having some impact. If we
don’t also do right by home workers, the grand strategy of
community care will crumble and we’ll start building institutions
again. I’m sure the chancellor has done his sums.”

Bob Hudson, senior associate, University of Birmingham
health services management centre

“This is surely a case of reaping what you sow. For the past 15
years, local authorities have been urged to ‘outsource’ home care
and ensure ‘competitiveness’ between providers. Accordingly, pay
has diminished and proper training has disappeared – the days when
some home care workers studied for the now defunct certificate in
social service seems like a golden age. Naturally, staff will
gravitate towards the better terms and conditions offered by call
centres and supermarkets – that’s what happens in markets.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Our society relies on the commitment and energy of home care
workers. The human cost to the recipients of this service when
there is frequent turnover of staff on whom they depend cannot be
overestimated. A service which values its staff as well as its
customers is the only way forward and a major review should be
commissioned. Not the sort of issue we have seen government white
papers addressing – but why not?”

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“Home care is an area of social care that can be quietly ignored as
it is hidden from public view. When I was a student I spent a
summer providing home care for older people and I found it to be
rewarding and enlightening as well as tiring and poorly paid. Many
of the carers I worked with had not had training and had limited
understanding of the needs of clients which in turn led to poor
services. But they were all committed and would have been much more
effective if they had been valued, respected, trained and supported
by their employers.”

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“It’s true that home care is an under-valued, underpaid and
under-trained workforce. I’d like to see that changed but also for
the workforce to have a clear career and training path built on
flexible programmes. Home care staff are our local community too,
so workforce development is as much about community development. It
may be the government’s agenda which is in danger but it’s also
what matters most to people who need our services.”

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