Peter, aged 60, has been tetraplegic since 1986 and is injured at C5/6. He has used a live-in personal assistant for over 30 years.
In the early 1990s he set up his first care agency, and he founded Origin Spinal Injury Care in 2001, which specialises in providing live-in care assistants for those with spinal cord injury. Origin is based in Lancaster and provides care assistants for clients all over the UK, with around 50 – 70 clients at any one time.
Peter’s care is funded through the NHS’s Continuing Healthcare package, and he uses personal assistants sourced through his own company, Origin. As both a care user and a care provider, Peter is perhaps uniquely placed to comment on the care crisis.
‘I’m all too aware of the problems with recruitment. We provide carers for people for 365 days per year, and also respite care for shorter periods of time. The recruitment activity has dropped off a cliff since late June.
Speaking as someone who relies on a live-in carer, the fear of being left alone without any care is absolutely terrifying and all-consuming
It’s been catastrophic. Recruitment has dwindled dramatically. We’ve got a training course running at the moment with places for 12 people, but we only have two people doing it. We simply don’t have enough staff to cover all the clients we need to help.
The change started in 2016, but it has been much harder to recruit good carers over the past five years. The combination of Brexit and Covid has had a dramatic effect on social care, and live-in carers in particular.
At the moment we can’t recruit from Australasia at all, and we can no longer hire people without EU Settlement status. It means our hands are tied. We’re stuck. As a business we can’t take on new clients and we can’t hire new staff.
There are two things the government should do to help this situation.
- The government should add carers on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) within immigration law. They’re not on it at the moment but this has got to change.
- The other thing they should do is resurrect the Working Holiday Visa and open it up to EU nationals. This scheme is on hold at the moment, which means I can no longer hire carers from Australia and New Zealand. They could get the scheme running again and easily open it up to EU nationals, it would help a great deal. And remove the time limit of one year too.
We need good carers, and we need twice as many carers as we have clients. If we lose PAs through natural wastage and we aren’t able to recruit then we’ll have to withdraw from a number of clients – and we really don’t want to do that.
Speaking as someone who relies on a live-in carer, the fear of being left alone without any care is absolutely terrifying and all-consuming. I don’t know how any tetraplegic could get on with daily life without live-in care.
I’ve been in this business for over 30 years but I’ve never seen anything like this.’