Thursday 18 October 2018
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A vision that values care home managers

Unless we properly recognise the vitally important role of care home managers (and other front line leaders) as a matter of urgency there will be a major crisis in recruitment and retention argues Des Kelly OBE.

Managing, and leading, a care service has never been an easy role. It has always been characterised by a need to be able to juggle a wide range of competing responsibilities: the quality and safety of care provided; building relationships with people needing support and their families; supervise and develop staff; sustain relationships with other professionals; market services and manage finances. One way or another all these elements contribute to the culture of care and have the potential to have a fundamental effect on the quality of life people experience.

These multiple roles demand a particular attitude and skill-set as well as qualities of resilience and commitment and determination. In my view this has always been the lot of a care home manager … but in recent years it has become even more so! There are rewards, of course, particularly with enhanced levels of autonomy and job satisfaction. And maybe these have been something of an antidote to the lack of status and appropriate professional recognition. However I believe that the situation is shifting in some significant ways and several factors appear to be driving the changes:

    levels of need by people receiving care and support are becoming increasingly complex
    the pressure of funding and, in turn, the pressures to manage budgets are become more challenging
    rising regulatory demands and visibility
    increasing public and media scrutiny.

The combined effects of these changes and pressures are likely to influence the turnover of care home managers. The data collected by the annual NCF benchmarking survey shows some interesting trends: 83% of managers are aged 45+ with turnover rates of 18.4% and salary rates that have risen 8% over the last year for some care home managers (nursing care) to an average of £40,528 – a perfect storm?

The experience of managers in care settings was raised in the discussion at the Commission for Residential Care symposium held at City University earlier this week (2 March 2015) when the Commission (chaired by Paul Burstow MP and administered by Demos) set out its blueprint for action on the 38 recommendations made in the report. There has been broad support for the recommendations relating to workforce issues including a call for commissioners to pay a fair price for care to enable providers to become living wage employers. A nationally recognised accreditation system of training and development linked to a licence to practice is considered essential to provide a framework for career development. Developing a more integrated career pathway between care and health, including the important role of nurses in adult social care, was also highlighted in the report and debated at the symposium. But a report, however well-written and no matter have well supported, only creates change when its recommendations are actioned!

So where is the talent pipeline for care managers of the future? We urgently need to invest in Deputy Managers and other senior staff with leadership responsibilities if we are to avoid major gaps in skills and experience in the near future. We need to cherish and value care home managers and their essential contribution to care and health and quality of life for the almost half a million people who live in care homes. The shared vision for ‘housing with care’ fit for the twenty-first century depends on it.

Des Kelly OBE | Executive Director | National Care Forum