Care Home Management

The Care Home Decision Makers’ Magazine

Insight & Analysis

Carer and resident | Nursing Home Agency Advice

Southwark ‘supplement’ aims to boost retention and standards

A new pilot programme outlining the expected standards for care home residents in the London Borough of Southwark starts this month (April).

The voluntary Residential Care Charter, which has been developed in conjunction with Unison, also covers minimum standards for care home workers, including paying all staff the London Living Wage (LLW).

Workers should also be paid for the time needed to carry out a handover between shifts, training must be offered for free and delivered in work time, according to the charter.

Finally, the charter stipulates that zero-hour contracts must not be used in place of a permanent one unless requested by that member of staff.

In return for adhering to these measures, providers will receive a financial uplift from the council.

The “Southwark Supplement” is a separate agreement with care home providers, which allows the council to fund the gap in pay for staff who are not already paid the LLW.

This will be monitored by the council’s contract team during the year-long pilot, Southwark said.

If successful among residential care homes, it will roll it out to other settings the following year.

Director of commissioning for children’s and adults’ services at Southwark Council Genette Laws said the charter was born out of residents wanting more than just a focus on the terms and conditions of the workforce.

Laws said: “During our consultation with residents and their families, we asked what was important to them in terms of living in a care home.

“Their expectations are reflected in the Charter, including around residents and families meeting with staff, families being able to visit their loved ones, and clearer timelines for managing complaints.”

During the pandemic, the council used fortnightly Care Home Forum meetings, which are attended by care home managers, to talk about the Charter and seek their views. 

Laws added: “The care home managers broadly welcomed the ideas. The most frequent question asked was how care homes would fulfil paying the LLW commitment if the council did not pay for all the residents in the care homes. 

“We want our residents to continue to have choice about where they want to live and receive care, so we had to come up with a novel way to ensure that the LLW was paid directly to all staff regardless of whether they were supporting a resident funded by the council.

“We are piloting an approach where we pay care home staff a Southwark Supplement so all staff in care homes are paid at least the LLW.

Laws added that the council has received expressions of interest from around a fifth of homes in the borough so far.

This includes residential and nursing homes, and homes that support older people and working age adults.

The charter came about after Southwark approached Unison about helping it draw up a set of standards.

The trade union has developed its own charter for residential care, but it didn’t take off as it’s a lot harder for councils to influence residential care due to the prevalence of private payers and a mix of people from different local authority areas, explained assistant national officer Matt Egan.

He said: “Councils were not really keen to intervene and change or influence the provision of residential or nursing care.

“So, it is really good that Southwark are taking this step to influence the standards of care in their residential settings.”

Egan added that Unison was very keen to see how the charter works in practice and the trade union is hopeful that it will have a sizable impact.

He said: “We are going to try to promote what Southwark has done among our branches and getting them to take the example to their corresponding council officers. And we will be very keen to see how it goes in the borough itself.”

Laws added that the council hopes the charterwill provide residents and families with clarity about what they can expect from a care home, support residents to experience safe and high quality care, and let the care home staff know that both the council and their employer value what they do and how they do it. 

She said: “In practical terms, we hope to see an increase in care home staff retention, a reduction in staff turnover; and a stabilisation of homes being rated Good or Outstanding in the borough.”


Recent Features

Carer and resident | Nursing Home Agency Advice

Newcross HealthForce

Instant access to reliable and trusted healthcare workers