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  • Sarah Whitebloom

Why We Need to Register Care Staff

Some carers are concerned about care staff registration. They say it will not solve problems of bad care, abuse and neglect in our care homes. They say the regulator’s failure to tackle care home owners, the providers, has caused the problems. No one disagrees, least of all OLM – which wages a weekly campaign against bad providers. Last Christmas, we even gave awards for the Worst Provider of the Year. No one is blaming the carers for all the ills of the industry. But something has to change and registration has been proved effective in other industries .

Fact is, the current regulatory system, based on occasional visits to homes is failing and vulnerable people are suffering. Registering care staff, at the same time as getting tough with home owners, offers the chance to protect vulnerable people and the prospect of higher standards. How can that be a bad thing?

Every week there are more stories from the Care Quality Commission of abuse, neglect, injuries, even deaths. It is a national shame. The current top-down system has failed. Registering carers, as part of an overhaul of regulation, is not about blaming care staff. But it would be essential in a system of bottom-up regulation.

We have registered nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, chiropodists, lawyers, teachers, stockbrokers even beauty therapists – because it is recognised that qualified, registered staff are a good thing. Would anyone feel confident going to an unregistered doctor or sending their children to a school where none of the teachers is qualified?

Providers must be regulated and tougher powers are needed. But good care staff have nothing to fear from registration. It is the providers who should be concerned, since they would have to employ registered staff, which would cut into their profits. And registered care staff would be a lot harder to bully than employees on zero hours contracts.

Good carers should welcome registration. It would confer on them professional status and recognition, better conditions and would lead to higher wages. What’s not to like?

One of the regulator’s biggest concerns, on a weekly basis, is lack of staff. Providers under-staff homes on a routine basis to maximise profits. But the second biggest complaint is that the staff are not adequately trained and vulnerable residents are unsafe as a result.

A system of registration, alongside statutory staff-resident ratios, would mean providers would not be able to use the fewest, cheapest possible staff they could find anymore. The industry will cry: We can’t afford it. But how can we not afford it?

We don’t staff schools with random, unqualified people, well not that much anyway. We would not ask medical students to perform heart operations. And we should have properly qualified, registered staff to care for our most vulnerable citizens. Why is that a problem?

Self-funding care, which accounts for more than half the industry, is a highly-profitable business and some of those profits need to fund better care – including higher staff costs. As for the public sector, the extra money that will come from Government,and it will come, needs to go to pay for better care rather than higher profits.

Good carers are often the one thing that saves a care home from a completely damning CQC report. But it is naïve to imagine that there are no carers who should not be in the industry and would not lose out in a system of registration. Some care staff have appeared in court, charged with abuse of their vulnerable charges. These are rare cases. Much more common, however, are those who go from home to home with their bad name buried but little problem getting a job. Good carers should welcome registration. At the moment, they are carrying such colleagues. An excellent senior carer, once said to me about some staff on her team: ‘They have no pride in their work. They just don’t care.’

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