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PRESS RELEASE: Could compatible flexibility help the crisis in social care?

Timewise launches ‘Caring by Design’ with the support of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. The report sets out a series of recommendations for industry, care providers and policy makers to help solve the social care system’s recruitment and retention crisis.

  • Social CareFor England’s estimated 1.5 million social care workers, of which over 80 per cent are women, the lack of jobs that fit with their responsibilities outside of work, is highlighted as one of the key contributing factors to the sector’s staffing crisis.
  • The opportunity to work flexibly is cited as one of the major draws for people choosing to work in social care – many of whom also have caring responsibilities. However, the lack of compatible flexibility – from unsociable hours, the need to travel long distances between clients and the unpredictability of rotas, means that many leave this post once the reality of the role becomes clear.
  • First investigation of its kind, released today, offers an in-depth analysis on how social care jobs need to be redesigned, and sets out recommendations to care providers and policy makers
  • ‘Caring by Design, the investigation conducted by flexibility experts Timewise and funded by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, highlights that job design, rather than just a skills solution, is what will help solve the social care sector’s recruitment and retention crisis.

Despite the wealth of reports into the threats facing the social care sector1, and the severe problems of attraction and retention in the care workforce, there has been minimal focus on the practical actions needed to help social care providers address one of the primary reasons why care workers are continuing to leave their jobs at disproportionately high rate – the lack of jobs that fit with their responsibilities outside of work.

A first of its kind investigation ‘Caring by Design’, launched today by flexibility experts Timewise with the support of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, sets out a series of recommendations for industry care providers and policy makers to help solve the social care system’s recruitment and retention crisis. This approach has the potential to both improve the quality of care for clients, as well as provide a cost-efficient solution for employers significantly reducing the cost of staff turnover.

An ageing population and the associated increase in the number of people with disabilities means that by 2025, the adult social care sector in England will need to add approximately one million carers to its existing 1.5 million2. And along with staff turnover now estimated at 27 per cent – nearly twice the average for other professions in the UK3 – and severe difficulties in attracting and retaining dedicated carers in an age of austerity, there is now a critical need for employers within the social care sector to design jobs to appeal to both current and potential future carers.

The ‘Caring by Design’ report is the culmination of a 15-month long investigation into how carers and their employers manage the challenge of providing a high quality service to people who need care, whilst enabling care workers – 82 per cent of whom are women4 – to find the flexibility they need to manage their responsibilities outside of work.

The field work was conducted among 80 individuals and 10 care providers. It included qualitative research with carers, managers and sector experts to identify the constraints on providing jobs that are compatible with carers’ commitments outside of work, coupled with a pilot of a geographical team-based approach to scheduling with a London-based community support provider, Rathbone.


There is great confusion about what flexible working means in social care and who it’s supposed to benefit – employers or employees. Domiciliary care has a reputation as being a local, ‘family-friendly’ job, which attracts many women to consider the sector. However, many carers have a short career, often leaving their post once the reality of the role becomes clear.

The investigation identified the five key constraints on providing jobs which are compatible with carers’ responsibilities outside of work:

  1. The unpredictability of rotas
  2. The absence of slack in the system
  3. Unsociable hours
  4. Downtime in the middle of the working day
  5. The need to travel long distances between clients

These constraints mean that many care providers have been forced to give up on work-life balance for carers, and compelled to focus instead on ‘filling the gaps’ in the schedules in any way they can. At the same time, care providers sometimes offer family-friendly contracts to carers they don’t want to lose – but these contracts complicate the schedules even more, and may increase the burden on other carers.

But Timewise believes that there is another way.

The investigation identified three different dimensions of flexible working which would improve the work-life balance for carers:

  1. Predictability of working hours
  2. Advance notice
  3. Input into schedules

We also identified that a team-based approach can help employers to avoid over-burdening some carers by giving others special working arrangements.


As part of the investigation, Timewise ran a pilot with the London-based community support provider Rathbone, to test whether a geographical team-based approach to scheduling could stabilise and enhance jobs in care.

The pilot showed that the team-based approach improved one of our three dimensions of flexible working – input into schedules.  There was also an improvement in the perceived fairness of the schedules. Reducing travel time by clustering support workers in a particular geographical area enabled the scheduling of a weekly team meeting.  This was a forum for negotiating work-life needs, but also served to reduce isolation, improve teamwork and peer support, and increase team members’ knowledge about service users and their needs.

Through the pilot, Timewise identified a seven-step process which other care providers can use to implement this approach.

This approach therefore has the potential to improve quality of care provided:  care quality may be compromised just as much as by constant change of personnel as by lack of skills.


Timewise is making a range of recommendations to both care providers and policy makers to consider reviewing job design in social care, in order to enable carers to raise their living standards through secure employment which is compatible with their non-work lives.

The following actions are the result of Timewise’s initial pilot findings and detailed analysis, which have highlighted both the need for further research in this area and the potential for practical actions to be further tested. They include:

For Care Providers

  • Be clear about unsociable hours at recruitment stage, to avoid confusion about how much flexibility carers can achieve
  • Establish open communication and negotiation of work-life needs, so that the operational constraints are clear, and carers feel the system is fair
  • Consider a geographical team-based approach to scheduling, which can improve carers’ input into schedules, as well as improving the quality of care

For Policy Makers

The scale of the attraction and retention problem in social care merits radical thinking. The government needs to invest in further research on the design of jobs in social care so that the sector can take action to:

  • Reduce the unpredictability in schedules
  • Reduce travel time, by commissioning within smaller geographical areas
  • Reduce downtime by commissioning care packages with non-time-specific tasks
  • Upskill care managers to develop geographical team-based approaches

Dr Charlotte Gascoigne, Director of Research & Consultancy, Timewise, says: “When it comes to addressing the recruitment and retention crisis in this age of austerity within the social care sector, there is one missing part of the jigsaw which up until now has not been addressed: England’s thousands of care workers who need jobs which are compatible with their non-work responsibilities. Whilst the financial challenges and lack of investment are significant, care providers – and not least carers themselves – stand to gain from jobs being re-designed to fit with their lives.”

Hang Ho, Head of Philanthropy for Europe, Middle-East and Africa at J.P. Morgan, says: Social Care is a vital sector to maintaining the health of England’s economy. And with an ageing population, its importance is growing. It is key that a vibrant job market supports this growth by improving access to good quality skills for the future but also by better understanding how effective job design can lead to improvements for those already working in social care. We hope the work carried out by Timewise sparks debate and brings about positive practical change.”

Sharon Allen OBE, Chief Executive, Skills for Care, says:Recruiting and retaining the right people, to provide high quality person centred care is a priority, but also a challenge for the social care sector. This important research report highlights innovative and practical ideas on how our sector might offer more flexible job roles to attract the right people with the right values into the sector.”

– ENDS –

For more information or to arrange an interview

Please contact Campaign Director, Daniela Marchesi:
t: 0207 633 4553; m: 0797 3300059


1Recent reports include: House of Commons (March 2017) Communities and Local Government Committee Adult social care inquiry; Age UK (2017) The Health and Care of Older People in England; Local Government Association (2016) Adult Social Care Funding: 2016 state of the nation report.

2 Source:  ILC 2014 The Future Care Workforce. There an estimated 1.5 million social care workers in England, of which circa 800,000 are front-line care workers.

3 Source: Skills for Care: The State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce in England 2015.

4 Source: ILC 2014 The Future Care Workforce

About Timewise

Timewise ( is a multi-award winning social business and leading change agent for the flexible recruitment market in the UK.

Experts in flexible hiring, with 12 years of experience, Timewise is led by co-founders Karen Mattison and Emma Stewart, CEO, who have been made MBEs and won a range of awards for their work (see below).

Timewise undertakes a range of activities to articulate the business benefits of quality part time and flexible work, designed to boost the number of jobs that are advertised with flexible working possibilities in the UK, and provides a range of advisory and recruitment services for employers.

The Group has three business divisions:

  1. Timewise, consultancy working with businesses to help them make flexible working a commercial success – sharing market insights, delivering training and consultancy and sharing research
  2. Timewise Jobs ( the UK’s first national jobs board exclusively for roles which are part time or open to flexibility, with over 85,000 registered candidates
  3. Timewise Foundation, market making through sharing learnings with policy makers, opinion formers and employer networks. This public affairs work promotes the social and business benefits of quality part time and flexible work, aiming to influence both the mainstream recruitment market and public policy.

Timewise’s work has been recognised by thought leaders, policy makers and the business community, including: Resolution Foundation, the Confederation of British Industry, the Greater London Authority, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Cabinet Office, the Recruitment Employment Confederation, the Chartered Institute for Professional Development and the British Chamber of Commerce. Organisations that have advertised jobs through us, or used our consultancy service, include EY, Diageo, ITV, Sony Entertainment, Macmillan Cancer Support, McDonalds, EasyJet and more.


Karen and Emma have been named ‘Breaking the Mould’ award winners by the Institute of Directors (November 2014), ‘Women Changing the Business World’ by the IoD’s Director magazine (February 2014) two of the UK’s ‘Top 50 Radicals’ by the Observer and NESTA (Feb 2012) two of the ‘most exciting social entrepreneurs to watch’ by Real Business Magazine and named ‘Small Business Heroes’ by Management Today (May 2013).

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