Steve Harris is the managing director of Carewatch (Mid Shropshire). He’s been in the role for the past 14 years.
Describe your current job, in one sentence. I am the Managing Director of Carewatch (Mid Shropshire), a domiciliary care company.
And the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome? The most difficult challenge is what led to my proudest achievement above. As well as many clients in Shropshire, we also trade in South West Staffordshire and following a rethink by Staffordshire Council on how they would commission social care we were not successful in gaining that tender and lost 70% of our work and staff.
Explain some of the big issues in your industry right now? The biggest issue is finance. The squeeze between rising costs and increasing regulation and the reducing ability of local authorities to pay for the true cost of safe and sustainable care. But this is not just an issue right now, it has been for a while and is, in many ways, a catch 22 as the number of people needing care will always increase as life expectancy and medicines improve.
What are the best, and worst aspects of your job? I used to be an IT director and gaining work was the goal, I gave that up to make a difference to people’s lives. Knowing that what I do can help people to receive good quality care is just brilliant, that is no doubt the best aspect and what keeps me going to work every day. The worse aspect of this job is the constant battle with local authority commissioners to try and obtain funding for care that is needed to ensure well-being, but might not meet the criteria of the local authority who have very limited budgets.
What makes you smile, and what keeps you awake at night? This industry is full of dedicated individuals working in difficult circumstances and yet every day we manage to see the humour of the situation. Older people have lead a life full of historical events and difficult times and many of them develop a good sense of humour to deal with the trying circumstances they find themselves in, for all its faults this industry is the best and that is what makes me smile.
In terms of keeping me up at night, there is an ever increasing demand on care staff from the public, press and regulatory bodies that vilifies people for sometimes making genuine mistakes. This increases the barriers for recruitment and retention. It affects all of us that work in the industry, none of us at Carewatch would condone some of the examples we have seen carried in the press, in fact genuine carers are horrified and are perplexed how anyone could do such a thing. But the fear of making a mistake means that many good staff won’t now come into the industry.
How do you think your colleagues would describe you? I would like to think they see me as a fair and compassionate man who genuinely wants to make a difference.