Addressing staffing pressures in the care sector – Expanding flexibility

By Tinga Umera, Managing Director, Nexus Care Services

Flexibility has always been a key draw to staff in many sectors and it is the same for many looking to get into care. Almost half of all staff work part-time and many work on flexible contracts of varying hours, according to a recent study by Skills for Care.

For this reason, the sector attracts many individuals with other responsibilities, such as caring for family members, looking after children, voluntary work or education.

However, flexible working arrangements allowing staff to choose their own hours can result in uneven service coverage throughout the day for those requiring care and a degree of uncertainty that some carers struggle with.

Understanding the problem at hand

We make no secret of the fact that the care sector as a whole suffers from a staffing shortage – with a vacancy rate of around 10 per cent.

In particular, certain hours may present a significant shortfall as those on flexible working contracts or agreements need to address family requirements such as the school run or caring for children.

These hours are also typically those during which clients most require care across all providers – particularly those that need support with rising, dressing, meal preparation and personal care.

The result is that care provision during key periods of the day can be uncertain.

The way all providers approach staffing during these times needs to change to secure the long-term safety and satisfaction of clients – which is why we’re rolling out our latest employment offering to the industry.

A new way of working

As experienced leaders in the sector, we understand these pressures which face operators and have experienced them within our own service.

Rather than placing the burden of this shortfall on our clients, we have sought to develop and trial this new model to take the pressure off our staff and the people we care for.

Under an innovative system known as ‘block calls’ , we are offering guaranteed hours to carers working hours, which the industry has traditionally struggled to cover – between 6am and 10am, and 5pm to 10pm.

We also understand that, on occasion, clients with varying care needs or schedules will not need care on a particular day.

While these varying hours suit the majority of carers, some may appreciate the guaranteed – and higher-rate – pay offered by block calls.

We’ll also be offering carers on block calls:

Under this approach, pay is guaranteed. Whether they are required to work or not, due to changes in care provision, their time will be remunerated with fair pay.

However, this offering is not enforced across our company and instead we offer carers the opportunity to chose and switch between block calls and our more traditional, varied working model.

By offering the flexibility of varied or fixed hours, we’re creating the opportunity for our carers to adopt hybrid working patterns that work for them, while also ensuring that our care provision is always consistent and meets our clients’ needs.

Widening the appeal of care

In addition to offering increased support to our clients and staff, we’ve identified the opportunity for block calls to open up the caring profession to those who might otherwise have discounted it.

For example, only eight per cent of those working in care are under 25. Without bringing young people into the sector and developing their careers, the industry will begin to struggle as established carers leave the sector over the coming decades.

Guaranteed hours, the majority of which are outside traditional working hours, may appeal to university students, particularly those working on clinical courses, as well as working mums who struggle with childcare.

Involving more young people in care provision can help to protect the future of the sector and ensure that there is always care available when clients need it.

Outside of the scope of university, there is a significant potential for engaging people who prefer set hours in a care career. As a sector, we have historically failed to engage this demographic, but a block call scheme could be the answer.

By widening the appeal of care to existing staff and those who haven’t considered making the move into care before, we can improve overall provision in the sector and ensure its long-term security for clients who need our support.

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