Each year, 1.8 million people in the UK try to find a care home or care service, but only 600,000 people succeed, largely due to waiting lists and confusion around what type of care is necessary. But despite this high demand, 35% of all care workers in England – and 58% of home-care workers – are estimated to be on zero-hour contracts. Simply put, the care sector is fragmented, and with an ageing population, if something doesn’t change we’re soon going to run out of care services for those in need.
At Legal & General, we believe in building a better future – a future we can all look forward to. So in 2018 we invested in Care Sourcer, an online care marketplace, to re-build the sector so that it is fit for purpose for generations to come. The online platform compares care homes and services all over the UK, connecting the people looking for care with the people providing it, and closing the gap between the number of people who need care and those who receive it.
Knowing what to look for when it comes to care – let alone how to find it and pay for it – can be a complicated and emotional journey. “We want to help people understand what they need, how to find it and how to fund it,” explains Care Sourcer’s CEO and Co-Founder Andrew Parfery.
Through this partnership, we are supporting people on what Parfery calls “the drunken walk to care”, whereby people go from place to place, getting piecemeal information in a bid to understand what sort of support a loved one requires. “A lot of people might not actually need a care home – they might just need a home-care service. Others might not need a home-care service – they might just need some assistive technology. And others might be better served by moving into a retirement village,” Parfery explains. This is one of the reasons Care Sourcer offers a telephone advice service, whereby experts can guide individuals through the process of understanding what they truly need. “Everyone has a different journey, so we’re trying to make people aware of their options – like a Rightmove for care – and give them some guidance around what they might want to consider based on Mum or Dad’s situation,” says Parfery.
Everyone has a different journey, so we’re trying to make people aware of their options and give them some guidance around what they might want to consider based on Mum or Dad’s situation.
Building a better future requires a holistic approach, and in the context of care this means not only supporting the people looking for and going into care, but the people who are providing it too. Care workers are some of the most passionate workers, and this has become even more evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. Society must support these individuals who support society every single day. Through our partnership with Care Sourcer we have launched a free Employee Assistance Programme for all 1.3 million care workers in the UK, where carers can speak to a councillor or an expert to support them in a variety of situations, from dealing with money worries and mental health issues, to dealing with a long-term client passing away. “We need to support the providers of these care services, which rely so clearly on their staff to be able to support the people who need care,” explains Parfery. “To fix this market, we need to look at both sides of it.”
As a result of Covid-19 there is, arguably, an even more pressing problem facing the care sector today. The large number of deaths in care homes means occupancy rates have dropped by 10%, which could have devastating effects. “We are concerned that up to 25% of care homes could go out of business by the end of this year, because financially they will no longer be sustainable unless their occupancy increases,” explains Parfery. So, with 1.2 million people missing out on the care they need each year, and 25% of care homes on the brink of collapse, we need to connect these people and care homes. “Providers will then be able to offer a fair price for their services, and they’ll be able to offer terms and conditions that retain their staff. Ultimately, when supply and demand meet each other, the quality of these services will improve.”
What’s more, the pandemic has seen the number of informal carers – such as family members or friends – increase from 8 million to 12.5 million. In other words, there are now 4.5 million extra informal carers who, in the coming months, will be expected to return to work and need to source care for their loved ones.
So the supply is there, as is the demand, and this is a good place to be. We’re working to connect the two, to ensure people requiring care get the type and quality they deserve, and to support their loved ones to ensure that the process of sourcing that care is as stress-free as possible. “My hope is that the care finding experience today is completely alien to what it will be tomorrow,” says Parfery.