Jobeda Ali, the chief executive of Three Sisters Care, recently described her experiences of running a social enterprise which seeks to meet the social care needs of individuals while providing valuable opportunities for Muslim women and others from marginalised backgrounds to enter the care workforce. This coincided with the publication of the findings of a two year study looking at why Bangladeshi and Pakistani care users report lower levels of satisfaction with the care they receive than white British care users.
Our research showed that one of the key drivers of satisfaction with social care was the way in which care was delivered by care workers. Care users from all three ethnic groups (Pakistani, Bangladeshi and white British) wanted workers to arrive on time, not to rush and to be friendly and professional. This does not always happen because insufficient time is allowed for appointments and travel between them by providers and staff may focus on the tasks rather than caring for the person.
We also found that Bangladeshi and Pakistani care users face several specific barriers in accessing social care. Our research found a perception among local authorities that family members will provide this type of care. At the same time, there are practical barriers which make it particularly difficult for people from these groups to find out what is available and how to access it, as well as a stigma associated with accessing care from outside the family. We found that much of the burden of caring for family members falls on women who may be isolated by language barriers and multiple responsibilities.
Ethnic matching of care worker and care user was felt by both care users and providers to be important, as it eases communication and allows specific religious or cultural needs to be met. What is clear is that recruiting, training and retaining a workforce which is representative of the population it serves is vital to improving user satisfaction, as is enhancing the status of care work to make it a more attractive profession. It is cheering to read about a care provider emphasising staff development, employing women who have not previously worked from groups under-represented in the care workforce, and highlighting the importance of ‘humanity and kindness’ in the services they provide.
Our conversations with social care users and care providers highlight the importance of a person-centred approach which openly discusses ethnicity, religion, language and care preferences - without making assumptions.
NatCen conducted the research in collaboration with the University of Leeds and University of Stirling. It was funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Social Care Research. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, SSCR, DH or NHS.