The combination of COVID-19 and Brexit meant 2021 was one of the most challenging years ever faced by the social care sector. Chronic staff shortages, recruitment issues and mental health challenges put additional untold pressure on an already exhausted workforce.
With Government whitepapers and funding reform providing the promise of a brighter future for the sector, many are looking to 2022 as a year when the virus will be finally tamed. In the second of two articles, we asked QCS experts for their views and opinions on the year ahead.
Napthens LLP, which advises QCS customers on a range of different compliance areas including Legal, Health & Safety, Immigration and Human Resources, believes the recent changes to the Health and Care Visa scheme could provide a solution to the current recruitment crisis in the care sector. Angela Barnes, Napthens LLP’s Legal Director has this advice.
What is the Government proposing?
“Under the changes announced at the end of December 2021, care sector roles (including care workers, care assistants and home carers) are set to be added to the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List (SOL). The change follows recommendations from the Migration Advisory Committee and will temporarily extend the current Health and Care Worker Scheme, making it quicker, cheaper and easier for social care employers to recruit eligible workers to help to alleviate the chronic shortages caused by Brexit and COVID-19.
Although a date hasn’t yet been fixed, the changes look set to come into force in early 2022. Inclusion on the SOLwill mean that care sector employers can offer a lower salary than had previously been the case (now £20,480), subject to other eligibility criteria being met.
As the visa scheme falls under Skilled Worker immigration rules, care sector employers will require a sponsor licence, if they do not have one already. The licence lasts for four years and can be extended. Care organisations that have an existing licence are already well placed to take advantage of the scheme. For those organisations that do not already have a licence, the application can take a considerable period of time, typically between eight to 12 weeks once the application is submitted. Despite the fact that the changes have yet to be confirmed, time is of the essence for care services who want to hire new staff as quickly as possible and we recommend that a sponsor licence application is considered sooner, rather than later.
Although it has not yet been confirmed, it is thought that those in eligible care roles will be able to stay in the UK for five years and then potentially apply for settlement, even though the scheme may only be in place for a minimum of 12 months. Successful applicants may also bring their dependents with them to the UK.”
Senga Currie, QCS, Head of Care Development (Scotland), believes “the care sector is on its knees when it comes to recruitment issues”. She says: “One of the key challenges providers will be facing this year concerns recruitment. Of course, the health and social care sector has traditionally faced recruitment difficulties, but when I speak to frontline managers, it is clear that they have been severely magnified by COVID-19 and Brexit.
Another contributing factor is that many staff are leaving the sector for better-paid and less stressful jobs in retail and hospitality. And why not when they can earn more working on the checkout in Aldi or Lidl than in care?
In addition to a decreased employment market, the Pandemic has stoked fear amongst new entrants, many of whom have passed up the opportunity to join the profession during such a frightening period in history.
Governments of all nations are aware of the cliff-edge recruitment scenario faced by providers and of course the NHS. Factors such as low pay, long, unsocial hours can be off putting at any time. However, the added fear of the pandemic has perhaps not attracted would be recruits.”
A change of mindset
“In the face of great adversity, instead, we need to perhaps change our way of thinking and look at the many positive aspects of the Health and Social Care profession. The privilege of helping people at their hour of need is the most fantastic and satisfying experience a person can have.
Night shift patterns, which are so often perceived as negative, needn’t be viewed as such. For instance, when my children were young, I regularly worked night shifts. I was grateful to be given the opportunity of doing so. If I hadn’t taken the shifts, working would have been near impossible. Night shifts also had a hidden benefit in that they allowed me to do my shopping in the middle of the day when the shops were much quieter. That was always a huge positive.
To help providers, managers can access QCS’s Recruitment Toolkit, which has great hints and tips to make your service stand out from the crowd.”
Rachel Griffiths, Human Rights and Mental Capacity Act Consultant looks at a major change scheduled for 2022 – the abolishment of the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS), and their replacement with a new system, the Liberty Protection Safeguards (LPS) — both of these are applicable to England and Wales only.
“The LPS seem to have been with us forever,” she says. “But the government has now cancelled two implementation dates, most recently for April 2022. And currently there’s no implementation date set. QCS will update their policies as soon as this has been confirmed.
Many found DoLS bureaucratic, and difficult to work with. Also, they miss out many of the people who would definitely benefit from their protection. This is because DoLS can only be used in registered care homes and hospitals, and only for people who are aged 18 and over.”
What providers need to know about LPS
“LPS will be more flexible and easier to understand and will protect far more people using services. The LPS will apply to anyone from 16 who lacks mental capacity, and who is deprived of their liberty so that they can have the care they need, wherever they are receiving care services – including their own homes, shared lives and supported living.
A person aged 16 or over will be deprived of their liberty if they lack the capacity to consent to arrangements to give them necessary care and treatment, are not free to leave where they live, and are under continuous supervision and control.
To get ready for LPS, providers need to make sure they are working within the Mental Capacity Act. Firstly, they must assume adults have capacity to make their own decisions unless they can establish that they don’t. Secondly, they mustn’t treat someone as unable to make a specific decision unless all practicable steps have been taken to help them do so, without success.
Thirdly, they must never treat someone as unable to make a decision just because others think their decision is unwise. Fourthly, anything they do, or decide, on behalf of someone who lacks capacity must be in that person’s best interests. And finally, before they act, they should see if there’s any way to meet the person’s need that is less restrictive of their rights or freedom of action.”