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Tackling the care home recruitment crisis

The issue of care home staffing has been in the news a bit recently (see this, this, and this). It’s a massive issue because the demand for care – especially specialised nursing care around things like dementia – have never been greater. And the demand will only increase as the population gets older.

A few different factors have been offered to explain why there’s a gap, with the biggest reason coming down to pay (last year, council care employees were paid £9.80 an hour, while the average pay per hour in the private sector was £8.12. The National Living Wage is £8.21.)

But these conversations can miss some of the other factors that can dampen care workers’ spirits and cause them to leave the profession.

A few years ago, we spent a lot of time in care homes, speaking to staff about human rights, paperwork, regulations, and legislation. If you’d like to see the reports and guides we wrote, we’ve added some links below.

What we learnt was:


Care workers want visible leaders – someone who’s present in the care home and can demonstrate how to build good relationships with residents. Unfortunately, leaders report spending more and more time in the back office, filling in paperwork.

A sense of vocation

This is a big one. One of the biggest attractions of the care sector is the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives. But increasingly, care workers find themselves filling in paperwork, risk assessments, and so on. In fact, if you’re good at this kind of stuff, chances are you’ll get roped in to do more of it, taking you away from delivering care even more.

Professional autonomy

When we spoke to frontline staff they told us how many of the actions taken to control risk are actually in the interest of the care home rather than the individual. That is, things like risk assessments are more about protecting the care home than protecting the independence of older people.

What can we do?

Have a look at the guides if you want some practical tips on what to do to create a culture in care homes where human rights, independence, and autonomy can flourish. If you’re interested in a big idea, though, how about this: we (as a society or sector) see legislation as something negative, something telling us what we can’t do. Instead, though, we could see some of the provisions contained in things like the Human Rights Act as guarantees of basic standards of care. They can help us consult with families, promote independence for residents, and commission services more fairly. We just need to think about what they mean for people, practically speaking, on a day-to-day basis – what it means for them as they carry out their jobs.

If we get that right, we can help people do the very thing that attracted them to the sector in the first place: care for people who need their support.


Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash


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