Hard work, creativity, vision: the essentials of outstanding home care

Four out of five home care agencies are rated good, but only 3% are deemed outstanding. What are inspectors looking for?

“Absolutely soul-destroying” is how Cath Loates and Sandra Harris remember the day their home care business was rated inadequate. “It knocked the wind out of my sails, out of all of us,” says Loates, the company director.

After working to establish Eboney Home Care in Consett, County Durham, over seven years, Loates and Harris decided to step back from the day-to-day running and hand over the reins to other staff in 2012. “But actually, we should never have taken our eye off the ball,” says Loates.

2015 inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found an “absence of robust care planning” and that records “were not fit for purpose” or routinely audited. To set things right, Loates and Harris returned to their hands-on roles to overhaul the policies and procedures.

“As we implemented the changes, we could see what was missing,” says Harris, Eboney’s registered manager. “Although all the care workers work closely with the service users, we still have to hold as much information as we can to do the best for them – and that information just wasn’t there. We had to pull all that back together again.”

Going back to square one paid off. Eboney Home Care was rated good overall following a spot inspection in June 2016, and again in October 2018 – this time with an outstanding rating for caring. Eboney’s care workers are “absolutely over the moon”, says Loates. “They’ve done all the hard work so they’re thrilled to bits that it’s been acknowledged that they’re outstanding. We already knew, but it’s nice to have it written down.”

The majority – 82% – of the 7,191 English home care agencies inspected by the CQC are rated good overall, but just 3% are ranked outstanding.

The bar is deliberately set high, says interim chief inspector Debbie Westhead. “Yes, it’s difficult,” she says. “But with commitment, hard work, creativity and vision, it can be achieved – and it will benefit the people being cared for.”

Read the full article: Hard work, creativity, vision: the essentials of outstanding home care

‘Lots of lads I know wouldn’t give it a shot’: the men starting care careers

The care industry faces a workforce gap that could get even worse after Brexit. Looking beyond ‘the usual suspects’ is vital

Kieran Wilding never imagined he’d have a career in care, despite helping out at the residential home where his mum worked when he was younger. He would often lend a hand at mealtimes and would sit and chat or read with residents. But after training as a chef and working in the kitchens of that same care home for a few years, he decided to apply for a job as a care worker.

“I’ve been caring for three and a half years now and I wouldn’t change them for the world,” says Wilding. “It’s not just personal care; we’re friends and family, a shoulder to cry on. It’s not a job, it’s what we love to do.”

Wilding is one of the small – but slowly growing – number of male care workers in the UK; men make up just 18% of the social care workforce – an increase of two percentage points since 2015.

Read the full article: ‘Lots of lads I know wouldn’t give it a shot’: the men starting care careers

The drive for better care for older LGBT people: ‘I won’t put up with prejudice’

A training play for care homes and ‘older LGBT champion’ badges are among initiatives addressing diversity awareness

Sue Lister cannot stand the thought of older LGBT people in care living in fear of discrimination – and she’s not going to wait for things to change.

“When I reach the time of going into a care home, I need to know that all the staff and residents know about my partner, Ann, and my entire life history,” says the 72-year-old. “I’m not going to put up with any kind of prejudice or discrimination, and I’m not prepared to wait 10 or 20 years [until] the younger generation, which is far more open-minded, is older.”

The first generation to have lived their whole adult lives after the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 are now reaching their later years. The chances are that every facility is home to someone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), but as the subject is still taboo among many older people, care staff are not always aware.

Read the full article: The drive for better care for older LGBT people: ‘I won’t put up with prejudice’

‘Clients belittle you’: foreign social care workers on life in the UK

Social care workers who have moved to the UK explain how working here differs from their native countries

When Canadian Lindsey Brooks started working in the UK’s social care sector three years ago, one of the most startling differences she noticed was the lack of respect often shown to care workers. “Many clients are really hard on care workers; they belittle you and treat you quite poorly,” says Brooks, a client relationship manager for HomeTouch. “I think many clients view care workers as a personal housekeeper and that’s just not what they’re there for.”

Care workers are better respected in Canada, Brooks believes, because they’re better paid and because of the country’s reputation of having one of the world’s best healthcare systems. “If you’re lucky enough to have a caregiver that you get on with, people consider that a privilege.”

In the UK, the social care industry is heavily reliant on foreign workers. From Canadians to Nigerians, citizens from around the world account for 20% of the 1.6 million people employed in the sector. But working in the crisis-stricken sector, which is coming under increasing pressure as the UK readies to leave the EU, can be quite a different experience from at home.

Read the full article: ‘Clients belittle you’: foreign social care workers on life in the UK

A push to end the global HIV epidemic

At a recent conference in Paris, HIV experts agreed that the fight against the virus was in its ascendancy. If eradication is to become a reality, young people must remain committed to the task

At the start of the millennium, a positive HIV test was equivalent to a death sentence. Average life expectancy after diagnosis was just one to two years for those in low-to-middle-income countries, and one of the main reasons to get tested was to have time to prepare for death. But now the scales have tipped. For the first time since the start of the epidemic, more than half of people living with HIV and Aids (PLWHA) are having treatment.

The number of Aids-related deaths has almost halved since 2005 and in high-income countries, the life expectancy of PLWHA comes close to that of people living without the virus.

Treatment is working, but stubborn challenges remain. People continue to be infected, around one million still die from the virus every year and while 53% of PLWHA now have access to treatment, a significant number still do not. At present, the global HIV community of researchers, policymakers and healthcare providers is working towards UNAids’ 90-90-90 targets.

Read the full article: A push to end the global HIV epidemic

How can you leave no one behind when millions of children are uncounted?

The exact figure of unregistered children around the world is unknown but it is measured in millions. Now NGOs are insisting that all children are counted

One night, a five-year-old boy named Sheru became separated from his older brother at a train station in central India. Somehow, he ended up on a train that took him nearly 1,000 miles away to Kolkata where he knew no one, and none of the language.

He learned to survive on the streets until a stranger reported him as a lost child to the police and he was taken to an orphanage. Then, he was adopted by a couple in Tasmania, 10,000 miles away from his home.

Sheru inspired a book and the Oscar-winning film Lion, but the beginning of the story is far from extraordinary. Some 80,000 children in India go missing every year and millions of others around the world, for one reason or another, are separated from their families. The vast majority are not rescued by kind strangers. Nobody is accountable for them, and the children become some of the millions of the uncounted.

Read the full article: How can you leave no one behind when millions of children are uncounted?

Qualified but no experience: catch 22 locks social workers out of their first job

Students have limited opportunities for placements but recruiters always prioritise experience. Newly-qualified social workers need to think creatively

Ellen Bascote* has applied for more than 90 positions since she qualified as a social worker last summer, but doesn’t yet have a job.

“Every day I check job websites and get alerts,” she says. “I’ve been to one or two interviews but my lack of experience has counted against me.” Bascote has applied for jobs in both adult and children’s services, but finds that local authorities often want candidates who have completed the assessed and supported year in employment. “I’m having trouble even getting that,” she says.

It’s not unusual for social workers to struggle to land their first job. Employment rates usually depend on the state of the social care economy in certain areas. Where there are clusters of training courses, in London and the north-west of England for example, more graduates mean more competition for a limited number of jobs.

* Some names have been changed

Read the full article: Qualified but no experience: catch 22 locks social workers out of their first job

‘Luxury water’ for £80 a bottle? It’s ignorant, insensitive and irresponsible

Limited edition water harvested from melting polar icebergs, is now on sale at Harrods. It’s just another ugly indicator of our world’s many inequalities

We’ve reached peak bottled water. From today, for a sweet £80, Harrods will sell ‘luxury water’ harvested from icebergs off the coast of Svalbard.

Svalbarði is the brainchild of Jamal Qureshi, a Norwegian-American Wall Street businessman who visited the archipelago in 2013, and returned with melted iceberg water as a gift for his wife. He then, it seems, decided to bring this water to more people.

Astonishingly, the governor of Svalbard has approved Qureshi’s venture. He charters an icebreaker to make two expeditions a year, in the summer and the autumn when icebergs calve away from glaciers that run into the sea. One-tonne pieces of ice are carved from these floating bergs at a time. Using a crane and a net, they are lifted onto the boat and taken to Longyearbyen to be melted down into bottles of “polar iceberg water” which has has “the taste of snow in air”. On each expedition, Qureshi plans to harvest 15 tonnes of ice to produce 13,000 bottles.

Read the full article: ‘Luxury water’ for £80 a bottle? It’s ignorant, insensitive and irresponsible

‘We want social workers to do real social work’: the councils cutting caseloads

Some authorities are making efforts to tackle the strain of high caseloads – and are starting to see a difference in staff retention

In the children’s services department of Swindon council, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet is helping to reduce the average social worker caseload and identifying where the department needs extra hands on deck.

The simple case management tool allocates a weighting to each child or case based on a range of factors, such as the case type (for example, children in need, child protection or children looked after), the number of siblings, and the amount of travel or court work required. Each factor is given a number of points, judged by the social worker and their supervisor, and the numbers are totted up: the more complex the case, the more points it is given.

“If it’s done properly, you see fair comparisons across teams and can tell where people might need extra help,” says Karen Reeve, the director of the department who introduced the tool after using it in four other councils.

Read the full article: ‘We want social workers to do real social work’: the councils cutting caseloads


‘Water is a human right … but it can have a price’

Catarina de Albuquerque, former UN special rapporteur, on getting water recognised as a human right and why involving the private sector is a no-brainer

The first time Catarina de Albuquerque made a presentation at World Water Week, people did not like what she had to say. It was 2009, she was just a year into her role as UN special rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and delegates did not like her suggestion that people should pay for water.

“They were hoping I was going to say that as water is a human right, it should be free and the private sector should not be involved,” says de Albuquerque. She made her presentation, saying that water should be affordable, and the floor opened for questions.

“That’s when the disaster started,” says de Albuquerque. “I think the NGOs were in shock. They were saying: ‘How can you say that water can have a price? You cannot sell human rights.’”

Read the full article: ‘Water is a human right … but it can have a price’