SESCA (South East Social Care Alliance) is the South East regional arm of the national Care Association Alliance. Formed as a voluntary regional body over 2 years ago it is formed of the 10 care associations across the South East alongside our regional partners Better Care Fund/NHS, Skills for Care, ADASS, DHSC and LGA/Partners in Care and Health. Our aim was to represent South East care providers as the profile is different to other regions with a majority of SME providers, a high proportion of self-funders and we needed a voice. Like every other part of England we face challenges in recruitment but this is made even more challenging by high accommodation costs (and shortage) rural areas with limited transport links, high wages and low unemployment. So we wanted to see if we could work with our regional partners to raise (and resolve) these wider issues.
So then came the opportunity to support our providers with help with international recruitment. SESCA working wit ADASS successfully bid for our share of the £15m grant from DHSC for the end of 22/23 and through 23/24. Our approach was determined in consultation with our care associations and we decided that we would develop regional resources where that made sense but most of our activity would be at local level. We set up a website www.sesca.org.uk giving comprehensive information on what is involved when recruiting overseas, the costs and the challenges.
The funding has supported research at local level across the region to identify sources of support e.g. English lessons, pastoral support, driving instruction, identifying local groups, and accommodation options. Care Association websites have been enhanced to include this local information and linked to the regional website. Each care association has been responsible for ensuring communication on the grant opportunities have reached all CQC registered social care providers.
We offered a series of in person workshops on introduction to international recruitment followed by a series of webinars on compliance, ethical recruitment and a special webinar for home care providers. These have proved very popular. We intend to offer more covering modern slavery. Interestingly the workshop evaluation posed the question – does this mean you will recruit internationally and some 20% said no – now there was better understanding of the process, the costs and the wider responsibilities it was not a viable option for some. Questions remain so we have launched a pilot legal helpline to follow up the workshops and webinars.
Finally we have set up regional hubs to accept applications for grant funding - £1500 per provider as a contribution towards the costs. To date over 500 providers have applied and recruited from overseas. The project runs through to end of March and we are focussing on areas with less take up of the grants, of targeting students finishing their studies who would be eligible for a skilled care worker visa and continuing to build our links with local communities and NHS.
We have commissioned an evaluation not just on the impact of the grant funding for South East, reflecting on provider and recruit experience but as we know that our partnership through SESCA made this regional project possible we are evaluating the impact of our partnership approach. We believe that our successful implementation leads the way for further funding to be managed by Care Association partnerships who can reach local provider communities and design projects that meet the needs of providers. We believe this work will be an example of good practice to share and hope that SESCA will be able to take forward other initiatives that support our provider communities.
For more information contact Erica Lockhart Chair of SESCA email@example.com