‘You just cannot afford housing on carer’s pay’

HISTORICALLY high housing costs are causing a staffing crisis in the care sector which could get worse as demand continues to rise.

Connie's Carers managing director Paula Burbridge. (Picture By Peter Frankland, 31476102)
Connie's Carers managing director Paula Burbridge. (Picture By Peter Frankland, 31476102)

Following the recent announcement by Health & Social Care that its care-at-home package provision has had to be scaled back by 25%, primarily because of unprecedented staff shortages, private companies offering domiciliary care have said they are struggling with the same problem.

‘Some staff, who have all the right attributes of being caring and empathetic and who enjoy the work, have nevertheless moved out of the sector and into finance because they just can’t afford accommodation in Guernsey on a carer’s pay,’ said Connie’s Carers managing director Paula Burbridge.

‘All sectors are fighting over the same potential staff, so those who could be carers are also being tempted away by hospitality. I have friends in finance and they’re also struggling to recruit – it goes right across the economy. The island is no longer so attractive to workers from overseas, primarily because of the high cost of living and in particular the accommodation costs.’

Ms Burbridge said companies offering private care in the home were not in a position to compete strongly for staff.

‘The economics don’t work for tempting them away from other sectors,’ she said.

‘The care we provide needs to be affordable to our service users. You can’t pay more than the industry does now, without out-pricing yourself beyond clients’ means. And I can’t blame the girls for choosing other careers if they’re being offered more elsewhere.’

As a result of the lack of staff, Ms Burbridge said Connie’s Carers now had a growing waiting list of families wanting care services – a situation she described as

‘really distressing’.

‘The majority of people have already reached crisis point by the time they come to us,’ she said.

‘When you look into the circumstances of new clients, you realise how bad things have got for them. Often, before we are able to provide our services, their case has been superseded – by admission to hospital or a nursing home, or sometimes by another provider or a HSC care package.’

The problem was likely to grow in intensity, she said, as anticipated demographic changes greatly increase the demand for care services.

The States recently agreed to work on the assumption that an additional 300 workers would need to be incorporated into the economy each year for the next 30 years.

However, Ms Burbridge said she was not convinced this was possible, given the demand this would place on the construction industry, which also needs to fill vacancies and accommodate workers.

‘It’s a vicious circle,’ she said, ‘and you can’t dictate what landlords are charging in rent. They charge what people are willing to pay – that’s why they bought the properties in the first place.’

As well as Connies Carers, the Guernsey Press also approached three other private domiciliary care providers, of which two did not respond.

The third did not want to be named but described the same problems within the sector. In addition, they attributed the changes to ‘a massive haul of overseas workers leaving’ during the Covid pandemic, who could not afford to return due to higher demand on accommodation caused by ‘a huge influx of UK people coming over to rent or buy’ after Brexit.

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