Care homes face staff crisis as they struggle to recruit

THE Island is facing a staffing crisis in care homes as providers battle with other industries struggling to recruit in a ‘war for talent’ that could see wages soar.

Jersey Cheshire Home chief executive Donna Abel Picture: ROB CURRIE.
Jersey Cheshire Home chief executive Donna Abel Picture: ROB CURRIE.

Jersey Cheshire Homes chief executive Donna Abel said recruitment in many industries was challenging and that hospitality, construction and retail were ‘also struggling’.

‘This will result in a war for talent and inflated rates of pay that will cripple some smaller independent businesses,’ she said.

She added: ‘We predicted that there may be a reduction in the pipeline of external carers available to us due to pressures caused by the pandemic and the potential impact of the Jersey-EU Settlement Scheme. Our colleagues are the most precious resource we have. It’s essential that we do all we can to support and protect them both physically and emotionally during challenging times to ensure they do not become burnt out. It is fair to say that within care we are still facing the challenge of unpredictability with Covid-19, concerns for personal safety and missing loved ones not living in Jersey still front of-mind.’

She said that Jersey Cheshire Homes had reviewed their employment offer and benefits to attract new and retain existing colleagues.

Last month, Health and Community Services managing director Rob Sainsbury told a Scrutiny panel that a lack of home-care packages was one reason some hospital patients were waiting up to four weeks to be discharged.

He said that this was partly due to care providers being forced into isolation as a result of being contact-traced, meaning they were unable to deliver the required care.

There are fears within the UK that a policy requiring care workers to be vaccinated or risk losing their job could lead to an exodus within the industry.

Beth Gicquel, director of Cambrette Care, said that it did ‘concern me that the total number of carers is dwindling,’ adding that measures needed to be taken to make it more attractive to live and work in the Island, particularly in view of the cost of accommodation.

She added the situation was especially concerning because the Jersey Care Model – the health blueprint on which the new hospital design is predicated – was based on delivering more services in the community. She said that her greatest concern was not that people were finding alternative employment elsewhere within the Island but that they were leaving altogether.

‘They are not doing it to get 25p more down the road, they are taking life-changing decisions based on what has been happening over the past 18 months,’ she said.

Mrs Gicquel added that, whereas before the pandemic they were attracting groups of five, six or seven people to training programmes which they ran every three or four months, they were now struggling to attract participants.

Meanwhile, Les Amis managing director Shaun Findlay said that Covid-19 had exacerbated a problem highlighted as long ago as 2018.

‘Three years ago, we said to the Health Minister there is a crisis in care. It took 12 months for it to be recognised but it was 12 months that myself, the care federation and other providers spent saying, “We can’t recruit – the demand has gone up”. We said it’s all going to go wrong, then the pandemic came,’ Mr Findlay said.

Acknowledging that the situation was not unique to the care sector, he thought it nonetheless surprising that more attention had not been drawn to their particular challenges.

‘Today we hear the pressures of the hospitality industry struggling for staff but quietly there are fewer people going to work in care to support more people who are receiving that care. It might be that the burger and the pint is more important to the public because of lockdown but we’ll soon get to the point that, even though you’ve got the opportunity to go for a pint, you can’t because you are looking after your mum and your dad because there are no carers out there,’ Mr Findlay said.

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