Extra care housing, where accommodation and care for older people are integrated, could provide a partial answer to the chronic and increasing shortage of care worker time. Also known as assisted living or retirement communities, this form of care brings together people who need care into lively communities where care workers do not have to travel between assignments. Extra care housing, therefore, makes homecare workers 25% more efficient.
While the current shortage of people providing personal care is severe it is projected to get much worse. A new market report from social care consultancy Kingsbury Hill Fox Limited has compared the future supply of care workers against the fast-growing demand from older people.
Using population data from the Office for National Statistics and workforce profiles from Skills for Care the report identifies a 28% increase in the number of people aged 75+ in ten years’ time, compared with a less than one per cent increase in the number of care workers when adjusted for gender and age profile. Looking forward 25 years, three per cent more care workers will have to support 73% more people aged 75+.
Immigration from the EU has ameliorated the problem in recent years, but this cannot be relied on in future. Robotics will play a small part – there is research that suggests older people would prefer robots to do the most intimate and embarrassing personal care tasks – but human contact is an essential part of most personal care and of most older people’s lives.
“The solutions have to include broadening the range of people who wish to become care workers and using care worker time more efficiently. Which is where extra care housing comes to the fore” said Philip Mickelborough, author of this and the previous 16 editions of the report.
“Homecare workers spend on average 20% of their time travelling between service users: more in rural areas and less in urban ones. Extra care housing removes this travel time between service users, giving each worker 25% more time to spend caring for older people.”
In a recent consultancy project for Essex County Council, Kingsbury Hill Fox found that 79% of care businesses considered a shortage of care workers to be the main factor limiting their growth compared with 21% that thought it was the availability of work that was limiting their growth.
Extra care does not only avoid wasting 20% of a care worker’s time travelling; it makes care more responsive and more flexible too. A care worker can pop in for a couple of minutes to check up on an extra care resident in a way she could not if it meant a 20-minute deviation from her journey to the next older person.