The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted how essential care sector careers are to our society. Whilst many of us have worked from home throughout the pandemic, those in the care sector have been at their posts every day, at the risk of themselves and their loved ones, looking after our society’s most vulnerable in their greatest time of need.
You can find many examples of the bravery of these care workers by simply looking at the news cycles throughout the last year. Or by viewing the many stories highlighted by the social media campaign #SparkleForSocialCare that was established at the height of the global pandemic, to highlight the phenomenal dedication, hard work and continued sparkle shown by the UK’s 1.6 million care workers.
Care work is an honourable and rewarding career. So why are people leaving care jobs?
Those in care careers manage strenuous and emotional situations in the best of times, which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Paired with the lack of structured careers, mentorship and training opportunities, these stresses have left many disillusioned with their career choice.
51% of care workers are considering leaving their role because of the effect of their job on their mental health, according to research by The Care Workers Charity. The average number of sick days per person working in social care is 25% above the national average. 74% of care workers report that they regularly experience stress at work. The staff turnover rate in the adult social care sector is a staggering 30%.
The shocking picture painted by these statistics points to a sector that needs, collectively, to do better by the people at its heart. Institutional initiatives across care sector employers must be implemented to provide the proper emotional and career support that show our care workers that their knowledge and career experiences are valued.
According to publications like the Harvard Business Review and Personnel Today, more and more companies are discovering that volunteer programmes improve employee satisfaction, foster employee engagement and boost retention. In the UK, of the 21% of employees who already lend their work skills to helping out good causes, 82% say it develops their work and skills knowledge, and 79% agree their employer also benefits from their volunteer work. Research by Unum reveals that employees who feel cared for at work are 27% more likely to stay with their current employer for more than five years, compared to employees who only feel adequately or poorly looked after.
The CareTech Charitable Foundation has entered into a number of partnerships over the last three years that not only empower the younger people we help, but provide volunteering opportunities to CareTech plc employees, allowing them to use their skills and knowledge acquired over their careers to benefit the next generation of carers.
A successful example of this can be found in EY Foundation’s ‘Our Future’ programme, which the CareTech Foundation has supported to attract more young people in to social care careers., ’Our Future’ gives young people intensive employability skills, training and high-quality paid work experience in CareTech plc locations whilst providing CareTech plc employees the opportunity to volunteer as mentors.
Over the course of the programme, the young participants gain an understanding of what care work is and how rewarding it can be through the help of their mentors, who themselves are developing leadership skills whilst showing a younger generation the significance of their role.
Since the launch of the programme, many of the volunteer mentors from across CareTech plc have expressed to us how beneficial these volunteering opportunities have been to their professional development and overall job satisfaction. Two CareTech plc employees in particular stood out to us: Lucy and Julie who both work at different CareTech plc locations.
For Lucy, she found that the mentoring experience was mutually beneficial, as it gave her time to reflect on her own career and to think about professional goals for herself.
Whilst Julie told us that being a mentor reminded her about why she got into the care sector in the first place. She emphasised how it was “fantastic to be able to pass on her passion for the sector and to see that grow in others”.
(You can read more about both Lucy and Julie’s experiences here)
These are just two examples of the value that volunteering can bring to support recruitment and retention within the sector, providing staff with the opportunity to support others in their local communities. The business case for employee volunteering, as a wealth of research has demonstrated, is overwhelming. Employees want to know that their employers share their caring values and will support them to give back through schemes such as this. When this happens, staff stay longer, improve their skills, perform better and are much more satisfied in their roles.
Cut to the chase of what social care is all about and it boils down to good people looking after those in need of extra help so that they can enjoy meaningful and fulfilling lives. Strip away the jargon and the bureaucracy, and you are left with people helping others in need; others who either don’t have people around them to help or others who the people around them do not have the skills or capacity (and, sadly, sometimes the inclination) to help. Those providing this care are, therefore, the key ingredient of every care provider’s recipe for their services. Supporting skills-based volunteering programmes is a hugely powerful and beneficial means by which to invest in both our people and our communities – and which deliver huge benefits to employers.
First published by Care Talk Magazine