National Care Force
Helping the Ordinary do Extra
The world has let out a collective cry for help over the past few weeks. To which healthcare and other frontline workers have responded in earnest. However, the incredible toll of this undertaking is straining our existing infrastructure. So once again, in her hour of need, Britain turns to her ‘ordinary’ people for salvation. Across the country we can see initiatives being enacted at varying levels, as a communal spirit drives our anti-corona efforts. The National Care Force is amongst the more ambitious of these initiatives. We spoke to co-founder Dr Charles Armitage about how the National Care Force aims to support social care going forward.
The Force Awakens
The National Care Force is a direct response to social care’s current needs. It aims to connect an army of volunteers with care providers in need of support.
“We launched it last week and got about ten thousand volunteers sign up across the country within a few days,” Charles explains. “The care homes have a massive interest in it. There are probably about 2,000 care homes interested in accessing the volunteer force.”
Charles is aiming for 100,000 sign-ups to the National Care Force to help meet the needs of their care agencies. They are open to volunteer applications from anyone willing to help. Charles said:
“So far (the volunteers are) a bit of a mix,” Charles says. “There’s healthcare workers, volunteers, some with DBS, some without, some that work in care, some that haven’t.”
The National Care Force makes sure to vet both their volunteers and the care providers requesting them. ID checks are used to verify volunteers, with the option to also provide their DBS should they have one. Care providers are also checked to ensure they are who they say they are. Charles explains the system:
“The way it works is that care providers would get the app and create an account – it’s free. They say, ‘I need 3 volunteers tomorrow morning to do any range of jobs’. At the beginning it’s free text; then it starts to categorise people. [The main ones are] cooking, or care, or driving, or running errands or maintenance. This matches to volunteers in the area who have undergone a vetting process, like an ID check and potentially a DBS check. The care provider can choose if they do or don’t want to work with people without a DBS. Then it brings the two together and there they go.”
Building the System
The National Care Force’s origins are rooted in tech start-up Florence. As Florence’s founder, Charles recognised his technology’s applicability to healthcare’s current challenges.
“So [in] our day jobs, we run Florence,” he says. “Then we just started doing this a week ago. We thought: ‘we’re good at building tech, we’re good at scaling workforce, and we’re good at matching supply to demand with workers.’
“This is a non-profit we’re making. The leadership is Florence but it’s started by Florence workers and some volunteers we have on social media in marketing and in tech to help build the product.”
The National Care Force has also secured funding to help it start supporting the sector further. Charles explains:
“We are getting funding; we’ve got a bit of cash lined up. We’ve got about £50,000, [and we’re] aiming to get a quarter million of funding, because over the next two months [we want to] build this and then take advantage of a lot of the volunteering capacity in the workforce at the moment. We want to make sure it lasts in perpetuity as a charity.”
Building for the Future
When it comes to perpetuity Charles is aware of the National Care Force’s potential:
“I think going forward there is the opportunity to really raise the profile of social care within the country. So if we can get 100,000 out in the community supporting social care, potentially people that are losing their jobs, we can start getting them employed and working in social care. It can do a lot to change the national conversation about priorities. I am cautiously optimistic that through this challenge we can really improve how social care is seen within the sector, within the country actually.”
Helping in the Present
Charles is not alone in recognising his organisation’s potential. Both the National Care Forum and Care England have endorsed their initiative to help support social care’s response to the coronavirus. Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, said:
“National Care Force has come on line at just the right moment! People around the country will be wondering how they can help those most in need. This platform will connect up those who can with those who need care and support.
“Our members absolutely know the essential role that volunteers play in the provision of great care, and we really welcome this initiative to super charge this effort at this time of need.”
This is certainly a time of great need for social care. The direct strain on our frontline workers threatens to break our healthcare system. The National Care Force is a response born out of necessity and powered by a sense of communal effort. The very same sense Britain has called upon throughout her history. Once again her ‘ordinary’ people are answering in force.
The National Care Force is currently up and running. For more information, and to sign up as a volunteer or agency, visit their website HERE.