Hackney launches Care Worker of the Year Awards to recognise the amazing work they do for tens of thousands of people
PUBLISHED: 10:27 15 September 2017 | UPDATED: 18:31 15 September 2017
The Gazette is taking part in a campaign to raise awareness about the need for more professional carers in London. Emma Bartholomew and Ellena Cruse explain the issues and chat to Hackney’s health chief Cllr Jonathan McShane about why the job is so worthwhile.
Hackney’s health boss has spoken out about the impact care workers make to vulnerable people’s lives, ahead of a new award scheme to recognise them properly.
Jonathan McShane told the Gazette he has wanted to raise the status of the “incredibly important and valuable role” care workers play for some time, and is thrilled the Hackney Care Worker of the Year Awards 2017 is finally going ahead this month. The council received more than 100 nominations in the space of a week when the awards were announced.
“This is a group of mainly women providing support that’s absolutely crucial to what we do as a council,” Cllr McShane said. “But because they don’t work in council buildings, they are less visible, and they feel less connected.”
About a quarter of Hackney’s 800 care workers work for the council, while the rest are employed by agencies. There are an estimated 19,500 elderly people in Hackney and 35,000 with a disability or long-term limiting illness – many of whom rely on a care worker for daily tasks like bathing, dressing and preparing food.
Cllr McShane said: “The media focuses on the impact adult social care has on the NHS if there aren’t care packages when people come out of hospital – but a lot of people aren’t anywhere near that stage and a big part about it is ensuring people don’t end up in hospital in the first place. That’s the bit that’s under real pressure because of funding cuts.”
Feedback has shown the thing most people desire in a care worker is consistency – but “it’s probably the hardest thing to deliver”.
“My gran lived in Scotland and her care worker was with her until she died,” he said. “She had the same person for 10 years and she came to her funeral. I think that’s harder to do in London, maybe because of people moving all the time. I don’t know whether it’s house prices and a greater range of job opportunities.”
To encourage workers to stay in the role for longer the council pays “decent” wages including travel time and has signed the “ethical care charter”, which sets standards around adult social care.
What does he think makes a good carer?
“You’ve got to genuinely like people. You’ve got to be patient and show empathy. In a borough like Hackney you’re appreciating diversity, getting on with people from a range of backgrounds, and being culturally sensitive.”
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.”