Mandatory vaccines and low pay impacting Calderdale care home staffing levels

Mandatory vaccines and low pay are impacting on care home staffing levels after important and intensive work during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday, 26th November 2021, 10:00 am

Calderdale councillors heard from some senior care home staff how the sector was coping, as well as about steps being taken by officers, including a recruitment campaign, setting up a staff “bank”, demonstrating career paths and a pledge to keep fighting for better pay for the crucial roles.

Coun Amanda Parsons-Hulse (Lib Dem, Warley) asked if there were figures about numbers of staff lost after the rule staff must be vaccinated had been brought in.

Coun Colin Hutchinson (Lab, Skircoat) asked if there was a time frame for the establishment of a local authority body to help provide a workforce, for example through apprenticeships, would start.

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Staffing levels at care homes in Calderdale

Board members heard the council was also aiming to develop a bank of staff to help fill posts and Coun Tina Benton (Con, Brighouse) asked whether there was indication it was being successful.

The council’s Director of Adult Services and Wellbeing, Iain Baines, said a strategy was being developed to meet the staffing challenge.

“When you look at the big cities they have lost hundreds of staff through the mandatory vaccine – here it is 40 or so, but they are 40 people with experience who have made a good contribution,” he told the Adults, Health and Social Care Scrutiny Board.

Michelle Wright, one of the council’s business relationship managers who worked with care homes, said the interview process for staff who might fill the gaps was beginning.

Assistant Director for Commissioning and Partnerships, Jill Holbert, said there was more work to do to ensure health and care staff are recognised for the work they do, including fair pay competitive with other sectors such as retail and hospitality.

Coun Danielle Durrans (Lab, Ovenden) said she was concerned those skills levels were not comparable to care staff and Mr Baines explained comparison was because retail and hospitality were competing for workers offering the same level of pay.

Mr Baines said the council’s Cabinet had provided initial investment to give care workers £9.21 an hour rate, which was above the national increase.

But care staff were fulfilling a similar role to NHS band three which had a £11.14 rate, for posts like a nursing auxiliary, so there was a significant difference.

“People will feel secure if they are being paid for the skill they have – at the moment we have got low pay and high skill and we want to change that.

“I haven’t got a magic money tree or magic wand but I won’t stop campaigning for it,” he said.

Isama Amjad of Valley View, Pellon, Halifax, said without the local authority’s help care homes may not have been able to cope.

Calderdale and partners had helped provide isolation homes, helped supply PPE and had helped homes bring in agency staff when they were required to provide staff cover, ensuring care homes were stable during the pandemic.

Ms Holbert had called the home daily to make sure it had the support needed – and this meant a lot to the staff.

“During COVID staff worked through without a break and gave up their holidays – it was a difficult time but we got through it,” she said.

Jennifer Freeman-Hudson, of Angelwings Homecare, Brighouse, said: “We have been supported both financially and emotionally and without the help we have received I am not certain we would have been here.”

Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said she knew staff who were glad they were in the care system but were working more hours than they were comfortable with.

Practical help the council had given included more than £1 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) – more than three million items of kit – to care settings, during the pandemic, said Ms Holbert.

Vaccination rates of 98 per cent first doses in both older people’s home and disability care homes, and, respectively 95 and 94 per cent second doses had been achieved.

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