Care Home Management

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Southwark charter has positive effect on care home recruitment and retention

Two years ago, the London Borough of Southwark launched its voluntary Residential Care Charter outlining the expected standards for care home providers that signed up to it.

Since then, six homes have joined the initiative, representing 86 per cent of the borough’s residents currently living in care homes.

Developed in conjunction with Unison, the terms of the charter include paying all staff the London Living Wage (LLW), as well as covering the time needed to carry out a handover between shifts.

In addition, training must be offered for free and during working hours, and zero-hour contracts must not be used in place of a permanent one unless requested by a member of staff.

In return for signing up to this, care home providers receive a financial uplift from the council to fund the gap in pay for staff who are not already paid the LLW.

Cllr Akoto

These payments are then monitored by the council via a spreadsheet of costs from providers.

Southwark Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing Cllr Evelyn Akoto said the Charter had been “really well received”, despite a few issues around communication and monitoring.

She said: “It is a no-brainer in making sure the terms and conditions are adequate. It is about a safe environment for care workers and those they are looking after, recognising the really important work that care workers do. It is also a business as well as an ethical case. It’s about making the business more attractive and creating an environment where staff want to work.”

Camberwell Lodge Care and Nursing Home, owned by Country Court Care (pictured), is one of the homes that signed up to the charter.

The home provides nursing care, residential care, dementia care and short-term respite care for up to 98 people. Home manager Lauren Gordon said that the staff benefits ramp up morale in the home and support recruitment and retention. She said: “People are more willing to pick up shifts, even unsociable shifts, which has a positive impact on the residents’ wellbeing, given that there are healthier staffing levels.”

Southwark targets
Southwark has set itself a target of all care providers to be signed up by 2026, citing early successes from the scheme: a staff survey by Agincare – which took over four care homes in the borough from Anchor last year – found that 100 per cent of workers were happy working there.

Cllr Akoto said: “I do believe the care charter is a major factor in this. This is an example of how well the charter is working.”

However, the success of the scheme has meant that some care providers who operate across London are concerned that staff and services could migrate to Southwark due to the better conditions.

Cllr Akoto said that “there needs to be consistency across London” to prevent a postcode lottery.

She added: “I enjoy the fact and I’m proud we are a frontrunner, especially towards driving up standards of care. If we can do it, everyone else can do it.

“Our door is always open to anyone who would like to speak about it. I think this is something that we all need to do.”

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