Edinburgh council staff leave desks to work as carers to make up for workforce shortage

Office workers at the city council are giving up their desks to go and work as carers to help combat the staff shortage in the Capital's health and social care service.

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Twenty staff have so far volunteered for a three-month secondment in a bid to plug the gap left by an exodus of carers leaving the sector.

Private providers contracted to provide care in people’s own homes have lost so many from their workforce that several have had to tell the city's health and social care partnership they cannot meet their commitments.

Staff who volunteer for secondment could work in care homes or the care-at-home service.

A report to the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board, which oversees health and social care in the Capital, said: "Between September and December, alternative arrangements needed to be found for 83 people, totalling almost 1,400 hours. This was a distressing time for many people and their families, who had alternative arrangements to be sought for quickly."

The report said the partnership was working with Edinburgh College to recruit students to deliver care via the NHS Lothian staff bank. “Uptake was low prior to Christmas. However a focus on targeting students on their return from festive leave is now taking place.”

And it said support was also being provided from the council. “Staff in ‘non-essential’ operational service areas are being asked to move to health and social care for 12 weeks to support the direct delivery of care and supporting functions. Work is being undertaken to support staff moving into the partnership, ensuring that they are appropriately trained and supported to safely deliver the required roles and care.”

EIJB chair Ricky Henderson said 20 people had volunteered so far for secondment.

He said: “They go through an initial interview online first, just to explain to them what's involved, and at that point they have an opportunity to go further with it or to decline.

“Then there's some training and some shadowing with an experienced member of staff before they would actually go out as carers.

“We’re just asking if people want to volunteer to come into the sector for a period of time and see where it goes from there.”

He said they could work either providing care at home or in a care home.

“Care at home is probably the more pressing need in terms of where the shortages are.”

The city council said employees had come forward to join the casual staff bank from various parts of the council, including education, estates, business services and family support services.

Councillor Henderson said: “I understand the majority of people who have had volunteered have past experience of working in the care sector so they know what is expected of them and we are very grateful for their support.

"I would like to thank those staff who have put their names forward and I hope the find it a fulfilling experience.”

The EIJB was also told several care homes had been closed to new admissions at the end of last year and into January because of Covid outbreaks, though the situation was now improving.

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