Care sector crisis: What comes after recruitment?

THROUGHOUT the pandemic there has been a spotlight on the care sector and the issues they are facing. During this time, I have been supporting, as an executive coach, one of their leading lights Dawn McFarlane, founder and director of Scotia Healthcare. It has been a real eye opener to realise the harsh challenges they are facing.

It has been widely reported that Scotland is facing a crisis in recruiting care workers. The Care Inspectorate has revealed that more than a third of social care services have reported unfilled vacancies in the past year. Dawn says care workers are not valued for their vitally important role and that significant investment is needed to help companies find recruits and increase pay. I do have to point out that, as a business mentor across many sectors, recruitment seems to be a multi-sector issue.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was “an urgent need for reform” of social care, with extra investment in services and pay as well as plans for a National Care Service. More than £5bn is spent annually on social care such as care at home for older people and disabled people and those in care homes. Companies such as Scotia Healthcare help provide those much-needed services.

A recent report from the Accounts Commission and the Auditor General for Scotland, said there were: “huge challenges facing the sustainability of social care.” Furthermore, it said the poor terms and conditions for staff contributed to recruitment difficulties, rising sickness absence and high vacancy levels.

There has been a plethora of recruitment campaigns by care companies recently. Dawn says: “We can advertise to recruit staff but the key is to ensure we have the right training and infrastructure to keep those team members happy so they will stay in the care sector.”

The Audit Scotland report added: “209,690 staff, mainly female, working in social care in Scotland were under immense pressure, and the sector faced ongoing challenges with recruitment and retention.”

Addressing working conditions is essential to improve the retention of staff. Dawn says: “Finding the best people is the biggest challenge. We recruit a very high standard of carer.”

Better pay would seem like an obvious solution, however, offering shifts that work for teams and the business and consistent training is also essential. Dawn does this by providing a suite of training courses, both classroom and e-learning, and this blended approach allows all the staff to develop.

My fear is that due to the pressing need to get new recruits in, companies will not be readily equipped to ensure they have the training and infrastructure needed so a vicious cycle will continue. So, this is more than a recruitment issue, it is a business one too. Dawn agrees and tells me that her team work long hours, often in very difficult circumstances, so her staff need to feel appreciated. That is why being business-ready is so important, ensuring you have training, flexible hours and supporting your team members to offer the best package possible.

Campbell Ure is a business mentor and executive coach from the alternative board (TAB North)

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