A personal celebration and a time to plan for the future

25 Aug 2016

I have always had a plan. As a boy when my friends wanted to become train drivers I had a plan to be The Minister of Transport. Even as a child I wanted to make a difference. Whilst my plan didn’t take me into the world of trains they have I believe, put me in the driving seat.

I don’t think you become a Chief Executive of an organisation like Jewish Care by chance. I didn’t wake up one morning thinking how did I get here but I do from time to time reflect and think how fortunate I am to be here.

This summer, I will be joined by 19 colleagues across the organisation to celebrate our 20th year of working for Jewish Care.

Like many long serving colleagues I have progressed through the organisation and after several promotions was appointed as its Chief Executive. It has been an amazingly rewarding and challenging 20 years.

In the last issue of Careline I talked about the challenge of the National Living Wage sprung on us late last year. I continue to fully support the principle of increasing low pay but against the backdrop of local authority real time social care cuts, its introduction will impact on the organisation’s long term sustainability and we are already feeling the impact of this change on our ability to recruit staff. We strive to offer our staff competitive salaries that are at or above the market median and we have increased the wages of the lowest paid staff in Jewish Care above the current £7.20 National Living Wage. However this has been over- shadowed by some of the big supermarkets and coffee shop chains who have this year already met the 2020 National Living Wage target of £9 an hour. It takes a very caring individual to choose to work as a front line care worker for some of the most vulnerable people in our society for less than £8 an hour when my local Lidl supermarket is paying 20% more for shop assistants.

The good news is that once staff join us they tend to, like me, stay for long periods of time. Our current organisational average length of stay is eight years compared to a sector wide five and a half years. Our staff tell us they like working for Jewish Care. They like our values, our caring approach, the sense of community and belonging we can offer and the opportunities for development and career progression.

Yet today as I write this article we have more vacancies for front line staff than I can remember in my 20 years working here and I do worry that the decision to Brexit could make things even worse.

We currently have 218 EU Nationals working for Jewish Care. Some are already voicing their concern about their long term future in this country. The message they are hearing from the country is we don’t want or need you here. The truth is we do.

It is too early to know what the impact will be for our EU staff once we formally exit the European Union. We are talking to our advisors and doing all we can to reassure staff we will support them as best we can. We value them, we want them to stay and I want to be pre- senting them with their long service awards.

Our reputation as a quality social care provider and a good employer remains high and we are working hard to compete in this market place to ensure we can continue to provide a range of quality care services to the community.

We are in a fortunate position to have enviable support from across the community. Support that enables us to provide services to the whole community regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. Of our £50 million turnover nearly one third comes from dona- tions from the community. We have to raise £15 million each year to keep our services open. It’s not easy raising this money year on year from a shrinking community with a younger population who we know don’t have such a strong affinity with Jewish charities that their parents’ or grandparents’ generations had.

If demand for communal services was declining maybe this wouldn’t be such a problem, maybe we would need to accept that times are changing. However, at Jewish Care this is not the case, the demand for services is greater than ever before. With people living longer, an ageing community and the reduction of government funding into social care we have seen a year on year increase in demand for our services.

So with all the current challenges we face in providing day to day care why are we investing so much money developing new projects?

The answer is three fold and based on a clear plan and vision:

1. We need to plan for the future as well as meet current need. Some of our services are outdated and in need of investment.

2. Our strategy plans see us providing more services on single sites which in recent experi- ence has led us to deliver a wider range of quality services whilst bringing significant efficiencies.

3. Once complete, each of these projects will contribute to the bottom line. Each of our new resources will have an element of Independent Living accommodation. Not only are we meet- ing a current need but these Independent Living components in Redbridge, Stanmore and Hendon will all contribute to the long term financial security of this organisation.

In 20 years’ time, when someone else is sitting in my office leading this organisation, I hope they can look back and see how the 2016 vision, planning and investment has enabled the development of sustainable social care services. Without that vision we won’t be able to deliver the sort of care in the settings that I and others in my generation will hope and expect to receive.

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