Robert Stephenson

The case for the Living Wage in homecare

The Guardian Social Care Network and Department of Health’s recent homecare survey (1) found that one of the three key factors of offering good homecare was “friendly, respectful, capable care workers” – in summary, those special people who have a vocation to care.

When in 2012 Dr. Matthew Knight and I founded Penrose Care, a homecare provider based in Hampstead, London, our goal was to find these special people and put them to work looking after the elderly and disabled. Paying the London Living Wage in a sector that struggles to even comply with the National Minimum Wage (2), we felt, was essential to achieving this goal.

As Living Wage Week 2013 marks one year since Penrose Care became one of the UK’s first Accredited Living Wage Employers in the home care sector, we now have hard facts we can share. Since there are only four of us in London out of over 900 homecare agencies – we have unique insights.

It is difficult to teach friendliness and respect and so the best thing is to hire care workers who already possess those qualities. Being a Living Wage Employer has helped us attract excellent workers like Perrine, a degree educated young woman who discovered her vocation to care while caring for the infirm in Lourdes, France. She is a model of a care worker who is friendly, respectful, and capable and she can pursue her vocation at Penrose Care because we pay a Living Wage.

The results of hiring individuals like Perrine, along with adhering to other ethical practices outlined in Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter (3), are stark.

Whereas Guardian’s survey found that less than half of respondents had a positive experience with care staff, all our client feedback to date has been excellent. This is exemplified by our being the only home care agency with a 5/5 Star Rating on NHS Choices (4) within a 3 mile radius of our branch.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (5) has linked low-pay with the issue of high staff turnover and non-continuity of care staff. At Penrose Care, we have had no care worker leave voluntarily. We strongly associate this with being a Living Wage Employer (6) (7).

Moreover, the attributes of being friendly and respectful should extend to care organisations as well. A great benefit of the voluntary nature of the Living Wage is that it gives employers an ability to give a credible signal to the public that we are ethical.

This is hugely beneficial as just increasing funding of the care system will not necessarily imply care firms will be more ethical. Sweden, which has the highest proportional public funding for home care in Europe, has suffered its own care scandals (8) by independent sector enterprises.

Penrose Care looks forward to continuing to work with the Living Wage Foundation and Citizens UK in promoting ethics in social care.

Robert Stephenson-Padron is Penrose Care’s managing director. Prior to founding Penrose Care in 2012 with Dr. Matthew Knight, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a healthcare equity research analyst at Merrill Lynch in London. Prior to joining Merrill Lynch in in 2010, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a healthcare equity research analyst at Barclays Capital, also based in London. From 2003-2008, Mr. Stephenson-Padron was a research assistant to epidemiologist Prof. Alison Galvani of Yale University.

Penrose Care is proud to be only one of four Accredited Living Wage Employers in the London home care sector out of c 925 agencies and the first independent sector home care organisation in England out of nearly 7,000 agencies to be compliant with Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter, an ethical pathway for social care providers. Penrose Care provides short care at home visits, day sitting, night services including sleepovers, and live-in care services.

References

(1) “Time, pay and lack of training are main challenges for homecare staff”: 30 Oct 2013 (Guardian, 2013), available here.

(2) “Care budget cuts by councils put older people’s rights at risk, says report”: 08 Oct 2013 (Guardian, 2013), available here.

(3) London-based Penrose Care backs Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter: 22 Oct 2013 (Penrose Care, 2013), available here.

(4) Home care (NHS Choices, accessed 08 Nov 2013), available here.

(5) Home care commissioning practices by local authorities must protect older people’s human rights: 08 Oct 2013 (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2013), available here.

(6) Paying the Living Wage benefits business as well as employees: 04 Nov 2013 (The New Economics Foundation, 2013), available here.

(7) An independent study of the business benefits of implementing a Living Wage policy in London: Feb 2009 (London Economics, 2009), available here.

(8) “Stockholm elderly care scandal widens”: 02 Nov 2011 (The Local, 2011), available here.

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