Restricting care staff movement ‘short-sighted and self-defeating’

Karolina Gerlich, executive director at CWC

Proposals to ban movement of care workers between settings is both ‘short-sighted and self-defeating’, industry leaders have said in a letter to government.

They said plans, which aim to limit staff movement between care homes and other health and care settings, would push workers into avoidable poverty.

The open letter, which has been organised by the Care Workers’ Charity (CWC) and signed by more than 40 organisations, said people worked in multiple care settings often to make ends meet. As reported this week, nearly three-quarters (73%) of independent sector care workers in England are paid less than the real living wage.

The CWC has supported more than 3,000 care workers this year but said this was the ‘tip of the iceberg’ as thousands of others were struggling without support.

The letter said: ‘Banning the movement of care home workers targets individuals who have little power of influence caused by zero-hours contracts and a low income. We believe the enforcement of this policy will mean affected care home workers stand to lose a substantial portion of their income.

‘This proposal is short-sighted and self-defeating. Valued care home workers will be prompted to leave jobs, in favour of financial stability and job security. Care providers will subsequently be reliant on agency staff to combat unsafe staffing levels which will inhibit the care of residents and threaten the closure of care homes.’

It also questioned whether the government’s infection control fund (ICF) would cover the costs of the policy. ‘Concerns have been voiced that the ICF already does not do enough to support social care. We, therefore, are unconvinced that care home workers will receive satisfactory support for the inconvenience caused,’ it said.

National Care Forum executive director Vic Rayner said while the proposals were understandable, they were ill thought through.

‘Many providers have already limited the movement of their staff but this does not appear to have been acknowledged by the proposal,’ she said. ‘In the midst of the very significant staffing and financial pressures around delivering care in the midst of a pandemic, managers will be expected to negotiate with staff around critical issues which could have potentially devastating impacts on an individual’s personal circumstance.

‘Rather than seeking to regulate to reduce staff movement at short notice in the middle of a pandemic, the approach needs to be more supportive and practical.’

Signatories to the letter include CWC executive director Karolina Gerlich, Mirthy chief executive Alex Ramamurthy, BKR Care Consultancy managing director Bhavna Keane-Rao, Florence chief executive Charles Armitage, Orchard Care Homes CEO Hayden Knight, Athena Care Homes md Mala Agarwal and Community Integrated Care CEO Mark Adams among others.

Consultation on the plans closes on Monday at midday.