Thought leadership: Why are home care providers turning so much work away?

A crisis in care planning

By David Lynes, CEO & Founder of Unique IQ

The stats around care providers’ ability to deliver essential care are pretty frightening at the moment. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen home care organisations become less and less able to fulfil the growing need in society for their services:

  • In January 2022, a National Care Forum (NCF) survey reported that 66% of home care providers are turning away potential clients and 21% are having to hand back existing care packages.
  • In May 2022, ADASS’ ‘Waiting for Care’ report found a 43% annual rise in the number of home care hours that could not be delivered.
  • And in the Homecare Association’s annual workforce study from September 2022, 47% of home care providers surveyed reported that they were delivering less care than the same time last year.

The reason for all this? Primarily a shortage in care workers. Skills for Care’s annual workforce analysis found 165,000 vacancies in social care in 2021/22, a 55% increase in just one year. The vacancy rate in home care specifically is running at 13.8% – the highest rate ever recorded, according to the Homecare Association.

In a sector that was already finding it hard to recruit and retain people, pre-Brexit and pre-COVID, the situation has reached critical status during 2022. The Homecare Association’s member survey found that up to two thirds more care workers are leaving the sector than this time last year – citing pay/cost of living (67%), travel requirements/petrol costs (58%) and feeling burnt out, stressed or exhausted (52%).

It’s a pressure we’re seeing reflected in our community of caring customers, and not just those working within the confines of local authority contracts. Many have had to turn away work over the last 12 months as their local job markets became extremely competitive, with pay rates reaching £13-£15 per hour in some areas in order to attract and retain staff.

We’ve also seen a marked increase in the number of care organisations who are setting-up their care management system to cater for office staff covering care calls. This has particularly been the case for covering early morning, late night or weekend shifts which were already harder to allocate. There just simply aren’t the people to do it.

As our caring customers tell us, there are many things that need addressing to resolve this problem. But we believe that resource management may be one of the answers the sector needs.

One of the big benefits of using care management software is the efficiency it can bring to managing a schedule of carers and clients; tech offers the ability to adapt quickly when something changes (such as staff sickness) as well as plan more easily in the short to medium term.

For example, a ‘Find carer’ feature within our IQ:caremanager system provides care managers with a pre-filtered list of the most suitable care workers for a job, based on a calculation from seven factors. Those factors include a carer’s experience and qualifications, distance from the job, availability (including holiday and sickness), as well as a pre-existing rapport with the client. It takes some of the guesswork out of care planning and offers some relief for care coordinators from having to store everything in their heads.

Recently, we’ve seen several reablement programmes relying on our software’s referral and modelling capabilities. IQ:caremanager’s ‘Referrals’ screen offers a way of managing new clients from enquiry through to onboarding, without impacting an active client roster (or manage a separate list of enquiries). It’s also possible to model visit schedules in a draft format to understand their impact on current organisational capacity. For reablement services that deal with a high volume of local authority enquiries this can be a real time saver.

These are a couple of small examples and I get that they’re not exactly tackling vacancy rates in home care head on. However, they do make it easier to plan in this time of crisis and ease some of the day-to-day planning pressures, so that energy can be focused elsewhere.

Software can’t fix social care’s problems. But it can help