Jewish Care boss: ‘We’ve let people down’ but will improve

Jewish Care’s chief executive Simon Morris says Rubens House has lacked strong management and the CQC’s findings were not a surprise.


Jewish Care’s chief executive admits the charity has “let people down” following a poor inspection report at one of its homes. But it is in “overdrive” to improve matters.

Simon Morris was speaking after the Care Quality Commission found Rubens House in Finchley required improvement in all five inspection categories. A subsequent CQC report on the charity’s Lady Sarah Cohen House in Friern Barnet deemed the home good in two categories but requiring improvement in three — safety, effectiveness and leadership. “Requires improvement” was the overall rating for both homes.

Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob House in West Hampstead was rated good overall in another recent CQC report.

Mr Morris accepts that the Rubens House report is not good news. “But it’s not inadequate — it’s a home that requires improvement.

“As soon as we heard we got ‘requires improvement’, we went into overdrive. It isn’t good enough for us. We want to be outstanding. Our focus is now on making sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Management have already outlined action plans to residents and relatives at both Rubens and Lady Sarah Cohen. And Mr Morris is keen to put the “disappointing” CQC findings into context.

“We have 13 registered services — 11 are good and two require improvement. So 85 per cent of our services are good, though obviously we would like them to be 100 per cent.”

Mr Morris says Rubens House has lacked strong management and as such, the CQC’s findings were not a surprise. But the grading for Lady Sarah Cohen House, a nursing home for 120 people, had been unexpected. “We have a really strong manager in Lady Sarah Cohen House and the work she’s done has been amazing.

“It’s difficult to keep morale up. [Staff] work so hard, such long hours and under such pressure… then to find the care they’ve been providing has been criticised.

“We are in dialogue with the CQC over the report. I would like to understand how they have come to some of the conclusions and to work together to make sure it will be better next time.”

The charity is operating in “the toughest care environment” Mr Morris has experienced

“We are living longer and with more complex needs, which adds enormous pressure.”

There are no legal requirements for carer-to-resident ratios but Jewish Care aims high. Mr Morris disputes the perception of the inspectors that there are insufficient staff.

“We work on a one-to-four ratio. If you look at the rest of the sector, we are significantly ahead of that.

“I would like to develop one-to-one staffing 24/7 but the funding of care doesn’t allow us to do that. We believe a ratio of one-to-four is very safe.”

Brexit and the National Living Wage have impacted hugely on recruitment. There are 90,000 social care vacancies in England, enough to fill Wembley Stadium, Mr Morris points out. His charity has 74 unfilled care positions.

“We find it difficult to recruit frontline care staff. It’s really tough work. People get paid less than they would if they went to work in a supermarket or coffee shop.

“Care work takes a special type of person and we’re finding it harder to find that person.

“Our pay is competitive and our retention rates significantly higher than elsewhere but it’s a national issue.”

With regard to the CQC, Mr Morris acknowledges the importance of regulatory bodies but bemoans an absence of “intelligent regulation. It’s a tunnel vision approach rather than a holistic and intelligent report.

“We are moving to a world where if it isn’t written down, it hasn’t been done.

“When I go around the homes, staff will be sitting in the lounge trying to write up a report. Then a resident will say they need the toilet. Hopefully they will go and take them rather than stay and fill in the paperwork. But the CQC sees an incomplete care plan and then the home gets a ‘requires improvement’.” He also takes issue with the CQC categories, arguing: “There is not anything between ‘good’ and ‘requires improvement’. Where is the ‘satisfactory’ label?”

Jewish Care is piloting touch screen technology in a bid to cut down on paperwork. If successful, many manpower hours will be saved.

“Our staff are torn between meeting the needs of the CQC and the individual residents and that is ridiculous. At the end of the day, we are in the business of care and not administration.”

The charity also has to deal with the consequences of ever-tightening council budgets. And although Chancellor Philip Hammond has pledged a further £2 billion towards adult social care, “how that gets spent, nobody knows”, Mr Morris says.

For local authority-funded residents, the council contribution is barely half the true care cost of around £1,000 weekly. “We never want to get into a situation where we’re limiting the number of people we help, or saying to the most vulnerable people: ‘You can’t come into our homes.’

“We are not in a crisis situation. It isn’t good but it’s manageable. We can work through this with the support of the community.”

Families of clients are consulted regularly. “At Rubens House there were a number of relatives who were quick to comment on the good work at the home,” Mr Morris adds.

“As with anything in life, there are always going to be people who are happy and people who have concerns and we have to deal with every one of those.”

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