How to retain your care team in this cost-of-living crisis

The cost-of-living crisis has arrived on top of Brexit, the removal of covid emergency funding for sick pay and is compounded by years of government underfunding. Rising energy, fuel and food prices are being felt deeply by care workers. Research indicates that many are struggling to cope and are considering leaving the sector.

You may have noticed the latest Skills for Care data which notes that social care vacancy rates have continued to rise in May to 10.3%, almost double that of 5.8% in May 2021.

We also know that the unmet need for care in the community is increasing. The Homecare Association and other professional bodies are lobbying the government hard for relief.

Care providers have already shown creativity over the last few years, so this feels like a body blow. As cash reserves run low, we know this is challenging, so we’ve listed the best practice our clients are putting in place to help retain team members.

Raise prices

One Purpletribe team member’s relative, partially funded by the LA, readily accepted a price rise. She knows the alternative is to lose care support altogether. Explore opportunities with private pay or partially funded clients and attempt to negotiate with commissioning teams.

Easier said than done, but when was the last time you raised prices? It’s a difficult conversation but made easier when you explain the long-standing and multiple pressures on your care team right now. People may be more understanding than you imagine.

Flexible rostering

Care providers we work with have had their recruitment success transformed by small compromises with applicants on the days and time periods they’re available. Sure, it makes for complicated roster planning but if an applicant has commitments on one or two days or at specific times, what is the cost of them parting from your business?

Looking at mileages more closely when allocating clients to home care workers is common, as is being more open to non-drivers and car-sharing.

Open communication with the team and in 121s

Do you have an open culture that emphasises valuing your team, and supporting the way you want to run your business? Take the time to regularly explain what’s going on and why, in case it impacts shifts, journeys, clients or pay and benefits.

Does your team know who to go to if they’re feeling overwhelmed in their personal or work life? You may be able to make a small adjustment that relieves pressure. Worrying about home finances can impact health. If you have cash reserves consider offering a small loan to be repaid through payroll.

Notice the small tensions or things like whether a team member is eating their usual lunch or not. Help remove the stigma of food banks and out-of-date food-sharing apps like Olio. Many working people are now relying on them to top-up family groceries. Again, difficult conversations, but can bring relief.

Pay and benefit review

You will know if your team are due a review. You may wish to pay the living wage if you don’t already. Or look at other benefits, such as; maternity pay and other enhancements to statutory benefits, paying for travel time, making sure people take their leave entitlement, offering private medical insurance and alternative transport options. Some care providers pay a contribution to fuel mileage costs, expense bus fares and don’t charge for a DBS check (or refund the cost after 3 months probation).

An ’energy bonus’ is one way of helping staff with extraordinary costs until prices settle again. This prevents a permanent increment being locked into salaries.

Wellbeing support

Your team may need help to achieve a post-covid healthy work/life balance. Can you support their physical and emotional wellbeing? Bonus time off to recharge with family or friends, access to professional support for issues like finance and budgeting as well as other life stressors might be appreciated.

Reward schemes

Would your team appreciate a ‘tip exchange’ WhatsApp’ group to share money-saving initiatives and help staff and the business? There could be prizes or a reward too.

We can’t believe the care sector has been allowed to struggle so hard either, and that we’re having to consider some of these suggestions, but needs must.

If you too are struggling and would like to have a chat, feel free to book a call with me now. I’m happy to share tips that might help you, whether we go on to work together or not.

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