Jim Kane: ‘Care charities are facing an exodus of skills’

20 Jan 2023 Interviews

Newly appointed chief executive of Community Integrated Care, Jim Kane, talks about his priorities for leading the charity through a recruitment crisis

Jim Kane is the chief executive officer of Community Integrated Care

Jim Kane took up his first chief executive role at one of the largest social care charities in the UK earlier this month when he was promoted from chief financial officer. 

With an annual income of £143m, Community Integrated Care employs over 5,000 staff and supports 3,500 across England and Scotland. 

When Kane joined the charity as CFO in December 2019, it was his first role in the sector. He was getting to grips with the specification when the Covid-19 pandemic thrust the charity head first into remote working. 

‘Before joining the sector, I feared it would be easy’

Before entering the charity sector, Kane worked for private healthcare firms – including roles as commercial director at Virgin Care and business development director at Interserve Healthcare. 

When he joined Community Integrated Care, Kane also became a trustee of HomeStart Oldham. 

Kane says he feared working in the charity sector was “going to be a bit easy and there would be less scrutiny, particularly from a finance point of view – I worried people might be a little less worried about the profit and loss or the income and expenditure as we call it”. 

But after meeting the charity team, he soon learned this was “very, very far from the truth”.

“So, it was a very easy move to make in the end,” he says. 

“I felt like I could do the right thing personally during Covid – for myself, protect my family and make sure I stuck to all the guidance – not going to any parties – but also did the right thing professionally as well. Which was really rewarding.”

Social care still reeling from the pandemic

Kane was responsible for PPE procurement at the charity and describes it as “a horrible period”. He says the work done by the government to protect people in social care “wasn’t enough” during the pandemic. 

“We were constantly trying to think; ‘What more can we do to protect the people we support and our colleagues?’ Because every single member of our charity was classified as a key worker. There was no furlough for us. If anything, it was now seven days a week working. So, the pressure was intense.”

The care charity is still suffering from the after-effects of the pandemic, says Kane. The only silver lining to the crisis was that it forced new colleagues in the team to “gel very, very quickly” and to become resilient to working in an ever-changing environment. 

Since Kane was promoted to chief executive at the charity, an interim CFO has been hired for six to nine months while the search for a permanent replacement is underway. 

‘An exodus of skills from the sector’

Since the pandemic, “it seems that care has become a much less attractive place to work”, Kane says. 

Social care workers were deemed “low skilled” during the pandemic, but Community Integrated Care’s ‘Unfair to Care’ report challenged this notion. It found the responsibility and demands of the role meant its skills base exceeded jobs like experienced healthcare, teaching and police community assistants. 

Despite this, vacancies have “skyrocketed,” says Kane.

Indeed, the charity’s report found that since 2021, unfulfilled social care posts across the UK have risen by 52% to 165,000.

“Every provider that I talk to is looking at similar retention rates which are well below where they were before. Recruitment is exceptionally difficult – there is absolutely an exodus of skill sets from the sector.”

However, Kane sympathises with those choosing to leave the profession. 

“I think in some ways you can't really blame them for leaving; the majority of staff are paid very close to national minimum wage – and the work is very hard.”

The average pay for a support care worker is £19,573 compared to £27,609 for an NHS support worker. 

‘Some stay as it’s their vocation - but we can't rely on that forever’

“Social care is very, very skilled, but not really recognised as such, or paid as such. So, if you can earn a couple of pounds an hour or more working in retail or hospitality, it’s sometimes an easy decision to make.”

However, Kane admits that a vast majority of Community Integrated Care’s colleagues have stayed because they view the work as a vocation. 

“But we can't rely on that forever,” he says. “People need to pay their bills, pay the rent or mortgage, and everything is increasing, and it's putting significant pressure on people.”

Community Integrated Care is looking to increase its pay for frontline workers again as soon as it is generating a surplus, Kane says. It already raised rates last year to £10 per hour for support workers in England, and £11 for those in Scotland. 

A challenging landscape

Kane says he has become a charity leader in a challenging landscape, but emphasises that it is important to remain optimistic. 

“Because without that, it's going to be even more difficult than it might ordinarily be,” he says.

His first priority in his role is to visit as broad a range of the charity’s services as possible and to catch up on the induction he was not able to complete during the pandemic. 

“Talking to colleagues and the people we support about the actual practical effects of current challenges and how they are impacting on their lives, on their ability to work, and what they need to help them,” he says.

He wants to help the charity’s Unfair to Care report gain the attention of policy-makers and the government to help initiate change. This would involve discussions on how the charity and policy-makers can make social care more valued. 

Kane plans to inspect the charity’s operating model, which it is currently developing, to ensure it is the best it can be so workers can keep delivering key services. 

He clarifies: “But doing that in an absolutely sound commercial way so that we’ve got the surplus to reinvest back into services. So, whether that’s through frontline pay or investment in developing new models of care.”

He also aims to support staff as best he can as cost-of-living crisis bites, he adds.

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