‘Islington is a better place than most to work as a carer – could you do it?’
- Credit: Archant
The Gazette is taking part in a campaign to raise awareness about the need for more professional carers in London. James Morris and Ellena Cruse explain the issues and chat to Islington’s health chief Cllr Janet Burgess about why the job is so worthwhile.
“More of a friend.”
“I feel more safe, secure and comfortable when he’s around, like an angel sent from heaven. Simply the best carer ever.”
“I can’t wait to see her.”
These are just a tiny selection of the quotes people gave when nominating their carers at Islington’s recent Dignity in Care awards.
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Cllr Janet Burgess, the town hall’s health and social care leader, said it’s proof the care industry is a rewarding profession in Islington.
The council commissions agencies to deliver social care. These agencies are also responsible for recruitment. This is often difficult in an industry not exactly known for rewarding its workers.
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But Cllr Burgess is keen to point out things are different in Islington.
“Generally, recruitment in care is very difficult because other jobs pay better,” she admitted. “A lot of carers leave because you can get the same money in a supermarket – and it’s an easier job. Another problem is a lack of job progression.
“But as a council, we are trying to make it a more attractive job.
“One of the major things we do is pay the London living wage [at least £9.75 an hour]. We were the first council to do this. We also pay for carers’ travel time. You hear awful stories about people travelling for two hours and not making much money from the actual job. That doesn’t happen in Islington.
“We are also working with colleges to put on courses and make it a profession people want to be a part of.”
Though there are still challenges ahead: “It’s been much more difficult since the EU referendum,” Cllr Burgess said.
“Some of our carers have decided to pack their bags and move back to eastern Europe.
“This situation will only get worse, with the leaked immigration papers [which detailed government plans to only allow highly skilled EU workers in the country]. Of course we want people with skills. But we also need people who are willing to do these kind of care jobs.”
Yet it won’t stop her getting the message out: “This is a job where people are valued. Look at the nomination quotes from the Dignity in Care awards, things like: ‘I miss her when she’s not around.’
“Such lovely comments – and it shows how rewarding the job is.”
Adult social care: A perfect storm
An aging population, a funding gap and hurdles in recruitment have created something of a perfect storm in London’s adult social care sector.
Councils have overall responsibility for ensuring the demand for adult care is met and as well as running their own services they commission private companies.
“Boroughs already spend significant amounts of their overall budgets on social care and still face increasing pressure due to the growing number of people living in the capital with care needs,” said Cllr Ray Puddifoot, umbrella group London Councils’ adult social care chief.
“They could be facing a shortfall in funding that could reach over £300m by 2020.”
A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) this year predicted the number of people aged 85 and over will double in the next 20 years. More than a third will have difficulty undertaking daily tasks without assistance.
Jon Abrams works for a mental health and disability charity and meets thousands of people across London who use care services.
“I strongly believe we all have a duty to the public to be open, honest and transparent about public services and finances,” he said.
“Successive governments have kicked the can down the road when it comes to a sustainable funding system for social care. Patching up existing services is not sustainable.”
Another growing concern is the 18pc of care workers in London already aged over 55 and expected to reach state pension age in five to eight years.
The CQC echoed Islington health chief Cllr Janet Burgess in identifying Brexit as a potential further risk. Some 84,000 care workers in the UK are non-British.
All this means there is a greater need than ever to encourage more people into the sector.
“There are lots of different roles in social care depending on what you want to do, who you want to work with and where you’d like to work,” said a Skills for Care spokesman.
“With a huge demand for workers, plenty of opportunities for progression and a job in which 96pc of workers said they feel their work makes a difference, adult social care has lots to offer.
“It’s a very rewarding career and you can make a real difference to someone’s life.”