Hafod is a not for profit company committed to Making Lives Better for our customers and our communities.
Over the past 50 years we have grown from a small housing association to be one of the largest providers of housing, care and support in South Wales.
We continue to develop and grow and are proud to support people throughout their lifetime.
How boosting the Foundational Economy is good for us all
Jas Bains – Hafod Chief Executive
It is now nearly 18 months since I came to Wales and took on the role of Chief Executive of Hafod, a not-for-profit company employing over 1,300 people delivering a wide range of housing, support and personalised care services across South Wales. During that period, we have gone through a rapid transformation with changes to our vision and our structure, but we’ve only just started on the real revolution – a wholesale change in the way that our colleagues approach their work and their careers.
Most of our frontline colleagues are women. They look after our loved ones and our families in a range of environments from care at home through to extra care and residential care services. Whilst women are well represented across all levels of our organisation, some 89% of our lowest pay bands are women.
The changes we have made to our organisation mean that we have already been able to reduce our pay gap from 20% to 14% in just a year. We’ve managed to achieve that partly through modernising our culture, but a far more fundamental shift will be required to change the underlying issues that keep women in more part-time, lower income roles in care.
It’s for that reason that we have been delighted to see the shift in national economic policy from the Welsh Government. The Foundational Economy might be a nebulous idea to some, a macro approach that refocuses policy on the infrastructure of everyday life, but for us and our team, it’s a potential lifeline – an opportunity to change lives, build more valued careers and stable communities.
The economic downturn, global competitiveness, demographic change and austerity have combined so that it is hard for us in Wales to increase relative economic productivity. Mark Drakeford, the new First Minister, and his Welsh Government have therefore looked at new approaches to tackle low incomes and precarious employment.
In a nutshell, part of the new Economic Action Plan will look at boosting those sectors of the economy that are reliant on local provision, sectors which may have been overlooked whilst we have invested billions into shiny new inward investments in advanced manufacturing or high-tech start-ups. Both are needed to drive prosperity in Wales, but the latter can be male-dominated, and affected by global economic forces that can be out of our control in a rapidly changing world. It’s time to rebalance where we focus government policy and business investment, and we are absolutely ready to play our part.
One of the most fundamental things we can do to boost the Foundational Economy is to improve income levels through career progression. It’s been hugely overlooked in the care sector, trapping women in jobs that don’t recognise their level of their skills and experience. A recent study by Chwarae Teg shows there are nearly 20,000 domiciliary care workers in Wales, some 80% women and 50% over 40, and 56% are on zero-hours contracts.
Imagine the difference we would make on the doorsteps of Wales if those care workers could train, progress and increase their incomes. If those women could increase their disposable income by £2,000, that’s a £40m injection into our local economies each year.
It’s not just about the extra money that would be retained in our communities and spent in our high streets, it’s about self-worth, resilience and well-being and the aspirations of our future generations.
There are some things the Welsh Government could do to boost career progression. The qualification system is confusing and complex. The way that care is commissioned also needs to be altered, so it’s not just about lowest cost, but values investment in training and skills.
But as a not-for-profit business providing vital public services, we also have a responsibility, and we are ready to walk the walk. Chwarae Teg also identified that the cost of training, and the time to train, can be prohibitive for staff in this sector, and that best practice in providing opportunities to progress can be down to sheer luck. We’ve decided to tackle these issues head on and make Hafod the best place to work and train in Wales.
We’ve launched academi Hafod to drive our skills and development training. We’re working with Cardiff and Vale College and the University of South Wales to deliver a clear progression pathway, including role-specific training and leadership skills. We’ve built in milestones to recognise and reward growth, and we’ve made sure every staff member has an opportunity to flourish. From aspiring first line managers to senior leaders, there’s something for everyone. Nearly 100 colleagues have been enrolled into our leadership programmes so far, and most of them are women.
I’m particularly proud of one of our programmes which helps career progression for carers and responds to a shortage of trained nurses. In partnership with the University of South Wales and the NHS, we’ve developed a 12-week Nurse Care Assistant programme so that senior carers can enhance their clinical skills, enabling them to complete tasks previously only undertaken by nurses within Hafod’s care homes. Over 30 staff have been through this training in the last year or so – many attending university lectures and training for the first time – improving our services, their approach to work and importantly, their incomes.
So investing in the Foundational Economy does not just inject money directly into our local communities, but helps tackle some fundamental public service issues and ultimately provides more and better care for our loved ones.
We are more than ready to deliver more economic value to Wales through fair work, fair pay and career development. And it is a revelation to work with a government that recognises that added value and shifts economic policy to focus on the real economy now, rather than the indefinite and uncertain economy in an unknown future.