My friend Mavis just applied for a job in a care home for the elderly. Marvellous, I thought. She is bound to get it. She is perfect for the job: personable, bright, forthright, cheery, hard-working, her social skills are top-notch, and we are desperate for care workers.
Off she went for her interview, told the fellow all about her life and past experience, including running two successful employment agencies, and when he’d heard all that, he started asking questions: “When you felt under pressure, what did you do about it? What are your strong points and weaknesses?”
“Are you seriously asking me these questions?” said Mavis.
“Well they’re on my sheet,” he said. “I’ve got to ask, so what are your answers?” Mavis had a stab at them, but knew she’d blown it. She asked a few questions herself and found out that his average staff turnover was four weeks. Yes. Four weeks. And the business was a franchise. You put in a bid, as low as you can because the cheapest usually wins, then you pay your staff flumpence to look after vulnerable and often weak, poorly people who need intense care and therefore a care worker with physical strength, great patience, kindness, empathy and time to talk with them. No wonder staff only last a few weeks.
This is the trouble with making money out of the sick, feeble and helpless. It’s frightfully difficult to make much profit without treating them, and their care workers, like rubbish, unless you charge private residents an arm and a leg to make up for the peanuts you’re getting for the state-funded residents. Or unless you’re part of a chain owned by private equities – as long as it doesn’t get into too much debt with its owners, who may pull out if they aren’t trousering enough profit for their rich investors; then your whole chain goes down the pan and the elderly residents are out on their ears. Then what?
The councils will have to mop up the mess. Perhaps they could take the care homes back in-house again. And have them adequately funded and staffed. Wouldn’t that be lovely? My dream for 2018.