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Recruiting in social care

Charlotte Burton, Head of Resourcing at BrandonI met someone new recently and in the way we all do, they asked me: “What do you do?” I answered, very proudly, that: “I head up the recruitment function for this amazing social care charity called Brandon.” I was met with a surprised expression and a one-word question: “Why?!”

Why social care?

Social care is what keeps our country turning. Social care looks after and supports the most amazing as well as some of the most vulnerable people in our society; Social care is essential to the performance of our NHS; Social care is joy, kindness and freedom. Social care is life changing for everyone involved with it.

Brandon is an organisation that truly puts the individuals we support at the centre of the organisation. The social care sector adopts 'person-centred care' as a bit of a buzzword. In reality, this means really looking at the individual in front of you, getting to know them and finding out what can enable them to live their life fully. Then, most importantly, it means doing something in response to those needs and not putting your organisational needs first. That’s what Brandon does best.

If the people we support don’t have proper support due to reduced staffing levels, what would happen? It would mean their lives would be limited, through no fault of their own. It would mean not being able to live the way they want to. We all want the freedom to make choices about our life – even in the small things like getting out for a walk. Recruiting the right candidates into the right roles at Brandon is therefore, changing people’s lives.

The recruitment challenge: Pay

I’ve worked across a few sectors in recruitment, including retail, health, and social care.
Social care is the sector that has won my heart, because of the individuals who have made other people’s wellbeing and quality of life their vocation.

Social care is also the most difficult sector I’ve ever recruited in. This is because social care is entirely funded by our local authorities, which in turn are funded by the government. For that reason, we can only pay our incredible workforce what we are paid for our services by our commissioners. Delivering high-quality social care needs a properly paid professional workforce.

Filling vacant support worker posts cannot just be down to people’s goodwill and kind hearts – as important as these qualities are. Salaries for support worker roles in social care need to be equivalent to comparable work in NHS services. And government action is needed to put social care on the footing it deserves.

A recent report by Community Integrated Care called Unfair To Care, documents that a support worker would need a 41% pay uplift to have parity with their NHS counterpart.

Given that health AND social care sit in the same government department, it is reasonable to expect that pay parity across these two equally essential and entirely interdependent public services in our society could be achieved.

Since Brexit, we also have one million less people in the British workforce and inviting overseas candidates to work with us is not an easy process for any employer. There are simply fewer potential candidates for roles than there were a few years ago.

The recruitment challenge: Myths

Social care is also viewed through a very narrow lens in people’s minds – social care is frequently associated with personal care, and I wish people understood that it’s so much more than that!

Social carers at Brandon – our incredible support workers – are helping someone make their own breakfast rather than doing it for them because it’s easier. Our support workers go food shopping with the people we support, so they can make their own choices about meals and snacks. Our support workers sometimes take people surfing or horse riding or do puzzles or singing or dancing – the work is to support whatever the person you are spending time, with wants to do!

And yes, sometimes it’s helping with the morning or bedtime washing routine, sometimes it’s assisting them to fill in important paperwork – or complete paperwork yourself for Brandon, to show you are complying with our high-quality standards.

But the joy you feel, knowing you have helped someone even a tiny bit in that one small interaction in their day, means so much.

The recruitment challenge: Wellbeing

One of the key lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic is that staff health and wellbeing has never been more important. This is especially true in social care where the wellbeing of the people we support is dependent on our staff being well and able to give of their best. We have an exceptional wellbeing support system at Brandon, to help our people succeed in fulfilling yet challenging roles, but we know that social care careers need to represent a good choice for people in terms of pay, satisfaction and progression. This will help us to retain amazing staff in social care services and will help to fill the vacancies that can arise due to competition with other sectors.

Solving the problem: Success at Brandon

Despite all these challenges, at Brandon we have been able to recruit a large number of new colleagues into the organisation over the past 12 months.

We’ve done this by sharing messages from our existing workforce on why they love their jobs, by leaning into the research that tells us that 79% of job seekers look to social media first in their job search; and by encouraging our existing teams to talk to their friends and family about Brandon and recommend the people they think would be a good support worker.
We’ve also reviewed and refined our internal processes to make the application and onboarding experience more accessible and simpler to use (and we continue to do this).

All in all, just because something is perceived as challenging, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. If anything, the difficult things in life are often deserving of even more effort and focus because of the powerful positive impact they can have. Many of the people we want to support, cannot choose to do a difficult thing without our help, so we have to be there for them, to help them to live the lives they choose.

Who cares? We do

We are on a mission to dispel misconceptions about taking on a role in social care. Our new recruitment campaign, Who cares? We do, will show that working in social care at Brandon is not only about providing personal care, that previous experience is not needed (we provide all the necessary training and qualifications), and there are many opportunities for career progression.

Our support workers truly impact lives, providing people with independence and freedom so they are supported to live the way they want to.

To find out more about working at Brandon, visit Who cares? We do, or follow Brandon on social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

Charlotte Burton
Head of Resourcing

Brandon Trust Twitter feed