Public debate needed on how to support Island's stretched care sector

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BETTER information on the Island’s care needs is required to develop policies to support the stretched care sector, according to the Jersey Care Commission chief inspector.

Becky Sherrington was commenting after the publication this week of her report warning that current staff shortages are putting the care sector at ‘catastrophic risk’. She said that the Island’s needs must be clearly modelled in order to develop policies that would support a sector where staff vacancies are currently running at between ten and 30%.

‘We… think it would really help when considering policies for the future. For example, housing and how we support small businesses because these are very often very small businesses. Those things need to be factored in because if a care provider was to fail – if they decided to cancel their own registration or if we decided that we had to put an enforcement policy in place and, in the worst-case scenario, we had to cancel their registration – we don’t believe that the system in the Island would be able to cope with that shock,’ she said.

Ms Sherrington said that the JCC, regulator of adult care, did not have access to data to be sure how close the Island was to a serious failure of the system.

‘What the capacity is at the moment is a really important question that should be posed.

‘How many care hours are met? That should be published and shared with the sector, so they can understand where they can support.

‘When we start to talk about this there may be providers who decide to come on to the market and take up the capacity where it’s needed. The government should hold that information,’ she said.

Responding yesterday to the commission’s report, Health Minister Karen Wilson said that a new strategic health unit was being established within her department to lead on policy, and to co-ordinate and strengthen the relationship between the government and the care sector.

Ms Sherrington welcomed her response but said that there needed to be a public debate about the Island’s needs and how they would be met. That was the purpose of publishing the commission’s report.

‘We are at, or close to, the point where we are not able to provide the extent of the care we need for an Island of our size. I think it’s a real risk but the level of risk needs to be debated. That’s the point – it’s the Jersey Care Commission’s view and it’s what the sector is telling us as well,’ she said.

– Ms Sherrington is the subject of the Saturday Interview on pages 10 and 11 of today’s JEP.

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