East and West Sussex in crisis as providers are forced to turn away callers needing care.

The shortage of care workers in the county has reached chronic proportions, with both East and West Sussex County Councils launching recruitment drives for thousands more desperately needed care staff. West Sussex has revealed exclusively to C4S that its current jobs drive is its largest ever.

Care agencies and local authorities are desperately trying to fill the growing void in care workers, with one provider telling C4S they had never known the situation to be so dire.

“We fell off a cliff three months ago and it simply hasn’t got any better,” said the Adur district Care2Connect agency’s managing director, Peter Grimshaw. “We are turning away a dozen people a day who ring up looking for care. I don’t know where they go after us, I hope they find care – but we are having to turn work away because we can’t find the staff.

“We used to hire on average six new care staff every month – now we are lucky to hire one or two. And it’s so competitive now – there are lots more care agencies and we are all offering the same things – flexibility, petrol expenses, paid training – but there aren’t enough and I just don’t know what the solution is.”

West Sussex County Council says it needs another 8,840 more are workers ‘to take up this most rewarding and satisfying work by 2024’. Its next recruitment event is at Horsham Job Centre on 14 December, between 10am and 12.30pm.

Unable to give us an interview, Kelsey Stubbs, communications account manager for the county council’s team ‘Later Life’, said by email that the problem was nationwide.

“We know other councils are running care worker recruitment campaigns,” she said. “We’re continuously looking into new ways of delivering good quality adult social care services to meet the needs of our residents.”

In East Sussex, press officer Tim Fletcher was unable to give a figure of how many care workers were needed, however he did say that between 2016 and 2017, 13,700 people received home care in some form or other.

“We are undertaking a recruitment drive in partnership with our local NHS partners and have significantly increased the fees we pay for independent sector home care providers, which has had a positive effect on recruitment within the county.

“We are also investing in technology-enabled care services to help us manage the growth in demand for support and the challenges of recruitment.”

Examples of ‘technology-enabled’ care services include personal alarms linked to urgent care services, health monitoring systems linked directly to services, promoting devices that remind people to take medication, and aids to help people eat, cook and wash.

Every agency we spoke to that offers hourly care in people’s homes said the problem was acute. And it’s not just with domiciliary care – residential homes are struggling to find staff too.

One care manager – who asked not to be identified – said care work had a reputation that put people off.

“People think it’s too hard, they think it’s too personal, even demeaning,” he said. “There’s a lot of bad press, too, about abuse in care homes and so on – people are worried they’ll be tarred with the same brush.

“They also think the pay is rubbish, and it all puts people off. The truth is – it’s so much better than that.”

Guild Care is a charity based in Worthing that has three residential care homes. Head of marketing Sam Philpott said the charity was constantly recruiting – and one of the problems was the reputation surrounding care work.

“It’s a difficult job – it’s very hard work,” she said. “You’ve got to go into it for the right reasons. It needs the right people.”

Exploding the myths

Guardian Angel Carers is a fairly new care agency that covers West Sussex as far north as Crawley, as far west as Havant, and along to Brighton in the east.

Lou Howard is the recruitment manager and says myths that the work is hard, poorly paid and offers no prospects should be quashed.

“Many people find it’s one of the most satisfying careers they’ve had,” she says. “No experience is required – you don’t need a health or social care background, and our carers often talk of the huge job satisfaction working with people who really appreciate their efforts, and the rewarding feeling of helping vulnerable adults remain at home.”

Louise Ingram was a hairdresser before she ventured into a care career with GA Carers.

“I walked into my first job and there was a lady sitting on her own in her front room. When I said hello, her whole face lit up, as if, gosh, someone’s here to talk to me. I helped her with her medication, and to bed, and she held my hand until she fell asleep,” said Louise.

“When I sat in my car afterwards I asked myself why I hadn’t done this all my life.”

Care2Connect’s Peter Grimshaw says people’s attitudes towards care work have to change.

“I’ve always thought that we should treat carers like nurses,” he said. “It’s so much more than it’s portrayed to be, and care workers really deserve far more respect.”

The authorities are not complaining that their budgets are too limited to provide the care needed. Indeed, because government proposals were scrapped that would have allowed people to keep more of their own money before the state paid for their care, in theory this should mean there’s more money in the care budget.

For once, it’s not money that’s the problem. It’s too many jobs, not enough takers.

The Office of National Statistics predicts the number of over 60s in the UK will rise by five million by 2024, so it’s a problem that’s not going away.

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