Innovative approach to recruitment and retention in the care sector speaks to care organisation Caremark about its new initiative to significantly fund university studies for its workers…and their children.


We know that the social care sector has difficulty filling vacancies and that low pay is a major disincentive for what can be a very rewarding career.

Some companies are looking to create better career pathways, but one has come up with a more innovative way to incentivise recruitment and retention.

Home care franchise Caremark is offering to fund an Open University undergraduate degree for care assistant employees or their children. The scheme is being piloted in one Caremark office – Caremark Pulborough, a small village in West Sussex. There, full-time staff perks now include up to £9,000 of funding for any undergraduate degree for a dependent child. Part-time workers are also eligible and can benefit from paid course fees of up to £6,000 for their child on a part-time course. Caremark calculates that the money is equivalent to over 40% of the average university course costs.

Caremark says its Open University funding programme aims to lessen the financial burden placed upon many of its employees who are studying and to keep existing staff fulfilled in their roles. The support for carers’ children recognises that university funding is an increasing issue for parents.


Caremark, whose head office is based in Worthing, is one of the largest home care companies in the UK, offering everything from elderly care, respite care and care for children with health difficulties to care for those with disabilities. As a growing franchisor, Caremark currently has 126 offices across the country.

Lisa Fyfe, joint CEO of Caremark, says that the company is keen that staff fulfil their potential, even if it means they end up leaving the care sector after doing their degree. “We want them to grow as individuals,” she said. The OU initiative is in addition to support for standard NVQ training and a focus on career pathways. “What we want to do is enhance people’s career development, even if they don’t want a long-term career in care. We want to open their mindset to something different.”

She adds that care work is 24/7 so it can be quite flexible if people want to study alongside it. Although the initiative has only just launched in the one location, they have already had some inquiries, for instance, from a care worker who wants to train as a nurse.

Fyfe says the company is keen to attract existing or prospective students, whatever their degree. Many aspects of working in care can be taught as long as people have the right attitude to caring.  She is keen to emphasise the many benefits of working in the sector. “Care is a very rewarding role and offers you the chance to make a difference to someone’s life,” she says.


The new initiative, which Caremark thinks may be be a first in the sector in the UK, will be monitored over the next three to six months to ensure, for instance, the balance is right between working hours and studies. The idea is that it will be rolled out from the centre, maybe to one other test site and then each individual franchise will be free to decide if they take it up and on what terms.

“This is really about encouraging more people into the care sector and to take some of the burden off the NHS,” says Fyfe. “To do so we have to think differently and review what we can give back to our carers.”

*Picture: Caremark staff at the launch of the OU initiative.

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