Why we’re championing real flexibility for social care workers

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Social CareWith the social care crisis creating headlines, Timewise’s Joint CEO Emma Stewart MBE explains how introducing real flexibility could make the industry a better place to work – and what we’re doing about it.

Whether you work in social care, or have a family member who relies on it, or you just read the papers, it’s impossible to ignore the problems that the sector is facing. So just imagine what it’s like for the people on the frontline – the army of carers who are struggling to deliver high quality care for their clients in a climate of increasing austerity.

Part of the problem is that the social care industry is billed as being flexible and family friendly – but unfortunately, the reality is very different. Here at Timewise, we want to change that; to help this important sector develop flexible ways of working that fit round people’s lives. So we’ve been working to design flexible solutions that suit both carers and their clients, and have published a report into our findings.

Why social care isn’t as flexible as people think

Our research showed that there are a range of issues that make the role of a carer hard to balance with other responsibilities: unpredictable rotas, unsociable hours, large chunks of downtime in the middle of the day and the need to travel long distances between clients. And because travel time is often unpaid, carers can end up on an hourly rate that’s less than the minimum wage.

We also found out that, out of every eight people who start training as a carer, only three actually go on to start working in the role, and that the staff turnover in social care in England is 27% – twice the average for other professions. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Timewise solution: compatible flexibility

We’re proposing an alternative approach to designing schedules and roles, which we’ve called compatible flexibility. That means, jobs that are flexible in a way that works with the carers’ everyday lives. And as part of our research we tested this approach out, running a pilot scheme with a London-based community support provider to see whether using a geographical, team-based approach to scheduling would provide carers with the flexibility they need.

The outcomes were really positive, with the new approach freeing up time for regular team meetings which allowed carers to have more input into scheduling, as well as making them feel less isolated, improving teamwork and making the system feel fairer. The meetings also helped the carers share information about clients and their needs, which meant the quality of care improved too.

It’s time to design roles that work with carers’ lives

As a result of the pilot, and our other research, we’ve set out some clear recommendations about how to make compatible flexibility work. Now we’re calling on care providers and policy makers to build on the findings of our report, and start designing roles that really work for their employees.

If this can be achieved, the industry will be able to keep the loyal, hardworking staff it currently has – and recruit the 1 million more it needs to have on board by 2020. If it can’t, we’re all in trouble.

You can read the full report here: Caring by Design

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