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Guest Blog: Seniors Helping Seniors - Social care, fit for purpose

Seniors Helping Seniors (SHS) is a social care organisation using a unique model to tackle two of the biggest issues facing our society today: elderly care, and employment opportunities for people as they age. Sally Wilse, Co-Owner of SHS UK, explains the value of their care model, and the importance of paying their carers the real Living Wage.

When we invested in Seniors Helping Seniors in 2014, we were determined to create an organisation that would have a real social impact, and forever change the model of elderly care in the UK. We wanted to provide an answer for some of the biggest social issues the UK is facing today: caring for the elderly, and employment opportunities for seniors, all while reimagining how care is provided. As the amount of people in retirement age increases (currently, 18% of people in UK are over 65 years of age, which is expected to rise to 25% of the population in 25 years), it is becoming more important that we come up with creative methods to address this issue. 

At SHS, we believe that the answer to these issues is clear: non-medical, in-home care for seniors in need, provided by active seniors who want to help. Our carers are experts – often joining us after having cared for a loved one who may have passed away, or joining us after having worked in other care settings. In particular, those who have cared for people living with dementia, whether in their own home or in an external care setting, will have excellent specific knowledge that they can share with others going through similar challenges. We are passionate about unlocking the untapped potential of our carers, while providing them with flexible work times and the pay they deserve, to best fit around their lives. This isn’t business as usual, this is business how it should be.

A core pillar of how we value our carers is by paying them the real Living Wage. We joined the Living Wage movement because we wanted to champion the principles that we strongly believe in – we have been paying above the Living Wage across our organisation since 1998, before accrediting here in the UK.  We truly value the work and experience of our carers, and want to reward them properly, as well as providing an industry-leading example to others on the benefits of properly paying our staff.

Recruiting and retaining has been easy! We are constantly recruiting new carers, and nobody really leaves – we actively demonstrate caring is a life-long career, with some careers still working at 80 years of age! We also believe that the benefits extend beyond the simply financial – it is a fantastic boost for our carers’ wellbeing and self-esteem, to feel valued for their work and experience. But don’t just take my word for it: one of our carers, Eileen wanted to contribute her own experience:

“Caring is far too often seen as 'something that anyone can do', and therefore requires no particular skills or experience. It is therefore given little recognition, and low-pay is the norm. Being paid Living Wage shows that I, and the work that I do, are being valued by my employer, and am recognised and rewarded for my skills and experience.

Working after retirement age is necessary for economic survival. It also has a positive impact on emotional and mental health and well-being. Working full-time hours is often not a reasonable expectation at this stage in life, so being paid a Living Wage makes it viable to work fewer hours but still sufficiently manage to supplement my income.

Any worker who is paid the real Living Wage knows that their employer values them and their work, as well as recognising the importance of a sufficient income level to enable them to have a better work/life balance. This will have a positive knock-on effect in many ways - reducing sickness absence, better mental and emotional well-being, less stress and more opportunity to remain active in and out of work”

Doing the right thing by our people, both clients and staff, is good for business, and every decision we make is guided by the core principle that it must be good for everyone concerned.

 In order to address the issues an ageing society creates, the traditional care model needs to be reimagined, and we believe that the value we place on our carers and the way in which we reward them does not need to come at the cost of providing sustainable and award-winning care.

We have survived the difficult months of this pandemic, and our carers continue to keep people well. While we are fortunate that our model provides one carer per client, thereby reducing the risk of widespread contraction of the virus, we believe that paying the real Living Wage has helped to improve the welfare of our staff, and therefore our resilience to the crisis. As the country begins to recover from this crisis, we hope that other care organisations will follow our lead in adjusting their models to incorporate the wealth of experience carers have, and by paying their staff the real Living Wage.

18th August 2020
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