CARE workers who provide lifeline services to Teessiders at home are “burnt out” as a recruitment crisis continues, a meeting has heard.

Stockton councillors were warned carers who visited homes were exhausted after more than two years working through the pandemic – with sickness absence up this year. Councils commission care at home services across their patches.

But Stockton’s latest adult social care and health select committee heard how the existing areas used in the borough to map out care “wasn’t working as it should do” because of the lack of capacity among staff. Council official Martin Skipsey said: “The impact of covid has had a massive impact on staff welfare in care at home.

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“We found it was very resilient and delivered a service under difficult services very well. But we saw that resilience start to tip away over the last few months – probably since Omicron in the New Year.

“There has been a lot more sickness absence in some of our providers as some of those staff, quite frankly, are a bit burnt out and have struggled.” Figures from a council survey showed 73% of those asked believed there was no change to the support they’ve received from the Care at Home service since the pandemic hit.

However, the council officer explained the sheer demand on services was the biggest issue hitting at the moment. Mr Skipsey said: “The sector is struggling with a recruitment and retention crisis – they’re finding it very difficult to recruit and they are losing staff to other better paid jobs in some cases.

“Therefore, they struggle with the capacity to accept new packages.” He added: “We know of some care at home providers where staff are working seven-days-a-week without much of a break – they’re getting tired in very simple terms.”

Past Stockton meetings have heard how the likes of Amazon are pulling away workers from health and care with four-figure sign on fees. The CQC has warned Stockton members how the wider care staffing situation was “serious and deteriorating” as the nation and Teesside faces an ageing population.

More than 10,000 hours of care are offered to Stockton folk in their homes every week. The authority also signs up “enhanced” care at home for those with learning disability, “complex” care at home services for those with “challenging behaviour” and “multiple conditions”, and “spot providers” to help fill gaps across the borough.

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One spot provider in Stockton is PPL – Prioritising Peoples’ Lives – a service rated good by both the Care Quality Commission and Stockton Council’s own rating system. At the moment, Stockton pays an average of £17.28 per hour of care to providers – which sits around the average for the North-east and Cumbria, but lower than Middlesbrough at £18.22.
After the meeting, PPL manager Joanne Sutcliffe told the Local Democracy Reporting Service how they faced “daily battles” with demand, and “appalling” struggles with recruitment. Mr Sutcliffe said: “We provide care in Middlesbrough and Sedgefield – and there’s not an issue in those areas because the councils there pay more than here.

“We’re getting a lot of applicants through for those areas so there’s just no competing in Stockton. There are a lot of people out there who can’t afford to live – I know it’s not all about pay but it helps quite a lot.”

PPL was named in the top 20 providers in the home care group by this year. Ms Sutcliffe said the firm was a small operator – explaining some who applied for care work “think it’s tea and toast” when it wasn’t.

She added: “Everybody works hard – myself and the MD all go out and deliver care. When covid hit, we all put our uniforms on and were out there – if we can do the jobs ourselves, which we all can, then we all offer assistance.”

The manager explained omicron had hit their staffing this year once rules were relaxed. And she believed workers’ pay needed to reflect the job they were doing.

Ms Sutcliffe added: “It’s a bit about recognition for the staff. That pay needs to reflect the work they’re doing.

“It’s quite stressful when they’re thinking they have to work from 7am until 11pm at night to bring money in. Maybe if that pay went up, they could spend more time with their families.”

The committee review will continue next month.


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