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The other keyworkers in care homes: implications of including domestic staff in social care workforce strategies and practices relating to Covid-19 recovery

Project status
Kritika Samsi
Institution web page
Host institution
King's College London
Team members
Kritika Samsi, Olivia Luijnenberg, Caroline Norrie, Stephen Martineau, Ian Kessler, Jill Manthorpe.
Funding information (if funded)
NIHR Policy Research Programme Recovery, Renewal, Reset: Research to inform policy responses to COVID-19
Project Summary

Ancillary or housekeeping staff in care homes – cleaners, those working in kitchens, laundries, maintenance – have been crucial during the coronavirus crisis given their role in infection control, food preparation, and help with social distancing. But they are traditionally overlooked by policymakers and commentators. What they have done and the challenges they faced during the crisis have been understated and hidden. Many are women with families, work part-time, and on shifts, and often are from migrant or minority ethnic backgrounds. We know they are not well paid. Some sadly died from the virus.

We want to find out whether and to what extent these workers were prepared and supported in their roles during the pandemic. This will help meet a gap in policy – how to better support this staff group work to prevent coronavirus, help those with it, and with service reset and recovery.

Our research unit’s PPI group will advise us and support this study. Many members have personal experiences as family carers of people living in care homes and of wider social care services. They have helped us already by encouraging inclusion of residents and relatives, emphasising the idea that everyone should have an opportunity to let their voice be heard. We will recognise members’ contributions by following INVOLVE guidance.

Our 10-month study has 2 parts. In Part 1, we will talk to 50 ancillary staff (privately); care home and Human Resource managers (15-20); residents and relatives (8-10). We will examine care home documents: inspectors’ reports, staff handbooks and job descriptions, to develop a comprehensive picture of the situation. Drawing upon our networks, we will talk to people in different types of care homes and with different personal characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity, employment status), allowing us to examine whether management practice reflects the variety of ancillary staff.

In Part 2, we will co-produce a good practice model for employing and supporting ancillary or housekeeping staff in care homes relevant to Covid-19. Building on Part 1 interviews, we will develop a document with representatives of this workforce, managers, residents and their families. The model will help support these staff during possible future waves of coronavirus and in recovery of services. The study’s outputs include: a detailed report on the experiences and treatment of ancillary staff during the pandemic from different stakeholder perspectives; and a coproduced ‘good practice’ model for policymakers and for care home providers.

We will publicise our resources for managers responsible for human resources, care home managers, wider care home sector; and produce policy options for national social care policymakers. We previously produced Covid-19 guidance for other parts of the care sector that was much appreciated and aim to do the same from this study.

Outputs / Expected Outputs

Expected February 2022.

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The other keyworkers in care homes: implications of including domestic staff in social care workforce strategies and practices relating to Covid-19 recovery