Promoting the Health of Women Working in Home Care: towards an inclusive Women’s Health Strategy

Caroline Emmer De Albuquerque Green, NIHR ARC South London Post-Doctoral Fellow at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, introduces a new report on the promotion of the health of women working in home care, which she co-authored with Unit Director Prof Jill Manthorpe.

Women make up the majority of the home care workforce. They provide essential support to people in the community with social care needs. But, the specific health needs of women working in home care have largely gone unrecognised and unmet. The health of home care workers is not just of interest at times of pandemic; it matters in addressing staff turnover, continuity of care for their clients, sickness absences but also the long-term impact on women’s later lives.

In our report, Submission of evidence on the specific health needs of women in the adult social care workforce in London with a focus on home care workers, we summarised what is known about the specific health needs of women working in home care. The report is co-produced with the assistance of the Proud to Care Board of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) London which includes home care providers, London Boroughs and other stakeholders.

We submitted it as evidence to the Department of Health and Social Care’s consultation on a new Women’s Health strategy. From what is known, we concluded the following points to consider in such a new strategy:

  • Research is needed to see how home care occupations can be health-enhancing not health damaging. How can risks be minimised and positive aspects of the work amplified? Serious consideration should be given to the health of the social care workforce in any reform of adult social care and workforce health and wellbeing should be emphasised in this and in the proposed Women’s Health Strategy.
  • London’s home care workforce offers much learning for other places and sectors. The majority are not UK born and are from an ethnic minority; if we get women’s health right for them then we will have learned much about addressing inequalities and how to ‘level up’.
  • As well as addressing specific health problems, multiple problems or long-term conditions need to be recognised in any Strategy.
  • Coronavirus pandemic support will need to be long-term for people who are in work, need to change their work and who may contribute to society in other ways.
  • The Strategy needs to address why social care systems are so reliant on zero-hour contracts and acknowledge their health impacts so that it can support changes that are more health enhancing for women, and others.
  •  A Women’s Health Strategy could support dementia prevention but also needs to support the largely female dementia care workforce by acknowledging its skills and needs for recognition, reward and further work-related capacity building.
  • The pandemic highlights the urgency of answering questions around specific health needs and behaviours of women in adult social care from non-white ethnic backgrounds. Consultation on the ‘right’ questions and approaches should involve care workers, and managers.
  • More specific evidence is needed on the impacts of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of women working in adult social care generally and in home care specifically to inform any future crisis but also recovery from the pandemic.
  • The impact of Long Covid on home care workers needs exploring so that effective support and readjustment can be offered. Data from Wales (linking individual health records and home care worker registration) are likely to be useful in the Covid-19 period but also subsequently for policy makers and employers.
  • The Strategy must build on the evidence to best support women working in the sector to receive the Covid-19 and other vaccinations for their protection against the on-going health threats of viruses and other infections.

The full report is available to download here.

Caroline Emmer De Albuquerque Green is NIHR ARC South London Post-Doctoral Fellow at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce.

Women’s activism across generations and the globe in the time of Covid

Dr Valerie Lipman is Honorary Research Fellow and Chair of the Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement Advisory Group at the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce, King’s College London.[i] (1,198 words)

We celebrate International Women’s Day 2021 with a story of an intergenerational project between young girls and older women in West Bengal, India and their global links with European feminists. As a result of the extraordinary determination and struggle of a group of girls, over a hundred homeless older women living in cyclone flooded and Covid-affected villages in the Bay of Bengal region, India will be moving into homes which have been especially designed and built for them.

In May last year the Amphan Cyclone in the Sundarbans in West Bengal wrought destruction in this area not witnessed for about 50 years. Already reeling from the Covid pandemic, thousands of people lost their livelihoods, homes and lives. Families were destroyed and as a local worker said: ‘The old village tradition of living with each other together has now become a fairy tale’.  Older people were left isolated with no one to look after them and older women who have no rights to land ownership or their own housing in this area, were left particularly stranded. The commonly held view locally was to prioritise those struggling to support their younger families, rather than help people nearing the end of their lives. Continue reading

International Women’s Day, 8th March 2020: Remembering the achievements for health and social care of some great women in South London

Caroline Green, who is NIHR ARC South London Post-Doctoral Fellow, reflects on the lives of prominent women figures in the health and social care context in South London. (838 words)

International Women’s Day is an annual celebration of the achievements of women and a day to put special emphasis on raising awareness of gender bias and taking action for gender equality. Women contribute significantly to England’s health and adult social care. The adult social care workforce is dominated by women, with 83% of the workforce being female. In 2017, 77% of NHS health workers were women. However, beyond “holding up” England’s health and social care system, women have revolutionized it at many points in time. This blog post looks back at some significant female figures in South London, who have shaped health and social care either directly or indirectly. This list is of course not exhaustive. Countless women with a diversity of backgrounds are driving today’s health and social care provision in South London and have done so for many years. Yet, the stories of the women below offer an indication of the rich female history of health and social care in this part of London:

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)

Florence Nightingale is widely considered the founder of modern nursing and a social reformer of health and social care. She first gained prominence as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, looking after wounded soldiers. In 1860, she established the nursing school at St Thomas’ Hospital in London, the first secular nursing school in the world, and now part of King’s College London. Many say that Nightingale here laid the foundation of professional nursing, with the International Nurses Day celebrated annually on her birthday. Nightingale’s social justice work extended to the abolition of prostitution laws, advocating for hunger relief in India and expanding acceptable forms of female participation in the workforce. Continue reading

Gambling Disorders in Women

Caroline NorrieStephanie BramleyStephanie Bramley (Research Associate, left) and Caroline Norrie (Research Fellow) from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London report from a seminar about Gambling Disorders in Women, held in London on 12 September 2017. (1179 words)

A new book ‘Gambling Disorders in Women: An international female perspective on treatment and research’ was launched at a special seminar on 12 September in Parliament’s Portcullis House. The book aims to raise the profile of gambling disorders in women and also provide fellow professionals across the world with a shared understanding of evidence based treatment and recovery in problem gambling literature and research.

The seminar was organised by book editors Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones (Founder and Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, London) and Dr Fulvia Prever (Psychologist and Psychotherapist working in the National Health System Addictions Clinic in Milan, Italy). It was sponsored by Gambling Integrity and hosted by Karen Buck MP. Continue reading

Values, Equalities, Rights and Dementia

Laura Cole is Senior Research Associate at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London. (929 words)

It is often overlooked that two thirds of people with dementia are women, and caring is often viewed as a woman’s role; both in the family and the workplace. These seemingly obvious points were highlighted at the second* event of the VERDe Network, ‘Venus, Mars and Dementia – Gender perspectives on dementia’ held on 2 June 2016 in central London. Everyone who  attended was keen to explore the equalities dimensions arising from gender differences that affect the services, policies and practitioners that aim to support people with dementia and their carers. Continue reading