Expert article
Project
home and care Landshut, Germany
Edit 18 December 2020
by Joerg FISCHER UIA Expert

A better way of balancing family life and work - single parent care workers in the health and social care system as a target group for poverty prevention

The neighborhood manager Ele Schöfthaler visits the children of care workers for storytelling sessions. (Source: Ele Schöfthaler)
The neighborhood manager Ele Schöfthaler visits the children of care workers for storytelling sessions. (Source: Ele Schöfthaler)
The Home and Care project in the German city of Landshut has set itself a goal. It wants to try out innovative ways to protect people from impending poverty and to prevent existing poverty from becoming entrenched.

In 2020, preliminary discussions were held in the city with the aim of offering people affected by poverty better options, to be able to both work and be there for their children. Currently this is a major challenge for the mostly female employees, especially if they care for elderly and sick people in the health and social care system in the whole of Germany and in Landshut too. How are entrepreneurs and employees contributing to the Urban Innovative Action project? A short article about a not so simple project idea with big goals.

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The situation of care workers in Germany is ambivalent. With the increasing number of people in need of care due to demographic change, the number of care facilities and jobs in the care sector are also increasing. Care companies have to come up with several ideas to recruit enough well-qualified staff and to be able to keep them in the long term.

Unfortunately, the framework conditions for this are not particularly good. According to current projections by the German Federal Statistical Office, there will probably be a shortage of around 112,000 full-time care workers in 2025 who will be needed to meet the demand for professionals in the German health and social care system. The growing shortage of skilled workers in the care sector is already a serious problem for many care facilities. The consequences of understaffing in the German health and social care system are usually far-reaching for the homes concerned. On the one hand, the cost of recruiting has been increasing and on the other hand, staff shortages have been intensifying the dissatisfaction among the remaining care staff. This also increases the willingness to change jobs, because the care staff in the facilities concerned often have to compensate for understaffing over a long period of time. Added to this are the effects of shift work, which represent an immense challenge for the care staff in terms of their health and their family.

Little has changed in this situation even under the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although care workers are celebrated as heroes, it has been difficult to improve these conditions.

The comparatively low pay especially in the social care system as well as the challenging working conditions in the shift system for care workers are compounded when poverty is considered. It is predominantly women who work in the health and social care sector, and it is precisely these women who are most often affected by poverty. The problem is exacerbated when women are mothers, too. Poverty increases when these women are also single parents. Challenging working conditions go hand in hand with low incomes and, together with a difficult personal life situation, quickly lead to poverty and extreme social strain.

The problem of single care workers in balancing work and family also affects many women in Landshut. If this compounded by low income, this is all then a major problem for many women.

The neighborhood manager in Landshut and the Home and Care project manager at the ZAK - Center for Work and Culture, Ms. Ele Schöfthaler knows all too well about the needs of single women working in the care professions.

It is clear to her that single parents employed in the health and social care system only work well and happily if they know that their children are doing well.

"And because young children in particular need a feeling of security in order to be able to play and learn without worries, single parents hope to be able to only be deployed on the early shift,"

reports Ele Schöfthaler from her experience of working with single parents who work in the health and social care system.

Against this background, the Home and Care project, together with the Heilig Geistspitalstiftung, a provider of homes for the elderly and nursing homes, as well as the LAKUMED clinics in Landshut and the hospital in Landshut, is looking for ways to improve the working conditions for care workers. At the same time, it is also trying to find new ways of caring for young children by combining the well-being of the children with balancing family life and work for the mostly female and single care workers.

A great challenge here is not to just to talk about the wishes and expectations of the mothers, but to explore together what is particularly important to them, where support is really necessary and where perhaps only small changes can help the women effectively help themselves.

The chair of the Landshut Social Committee, Mayor Dr. Thomas Hasslinger, asks Ele Schöfthaler about the Home and Care project and the use of puppet theater and storytelling sessions in project work. (Source: Internet)
The chair of the Landshut Social Committee, Mayor Dr. Thomas Hasslinger, asks Ele Schöfthaler about the Home and Care project and the use of puppet theater and storytelling sessions in project work. (Source: Internet)

This requires a constant dialogue with the single mothers, as Ms. Schöfthaler seeks to do as part of the UIA project. In addition, various approaches are planned in 2021 in order to be able to incorporate the ideas and perspectives of the women concerned first hand into the further development of the project. .It will be particularly important to work out solutions with the mothers that they themselves find useful. The solutions will only be accepted and perceived as useful if it is possible to find answers from the perspective of the affected mothers.

Since the start of the project in September 2019, various models have been discussed with employers as part of the Home and Care UIA-project, how balancing family life and work can also be better secured for single mothers. It is precisely the responsibility for their children with their very own needs for calm and emotional security as well as the desire for solid and reliable bonds that pose great challenges for young women.

On the one hand, employers must ensure that sufficient care staff are available and, on the other hand, that individual needs are also taken into account. The employees are faced with the task of doing a good job and creating a family setting in which the children are well looked after while they are at work

With the expansion of the provision of childcare, much has been done in recent years to ensure that children are in good and professional care during the day. From the age of one, a child in Germany has a legal right to a childcare place in a day-care center. So far, however, it is still a challenge whether this childcare place actually means care for at least eight hours, which would then make full time employment possible.

The focus of this innovative project is on looking for new ways in which childcare can be guaranteed by professional child care workers even if the mothers have to work shifts in the health and social care system.

Based on the discussions, the first results were achieved in 2020. In the interests of greater levels of satisfaction among single care workers, the care companies involved in the UIA project have agreed to deploy their care staff mainly in early shifts, taking into consideration the special needs of single mothers for family-friendly working hours. However, the childcare workers agreed to meet the need for evening and night shifts in special and exceptional cases for a certain period of time.

The childcare workers have a special role here, because they are supposed to provide care for the children in a setting that still has to be defined more precisely, without the children having to leave their home. This information will be provided in another web article at a later date.

For 2021, these agreements will also need to be made more specific from the perspective of the childcare staff. Likewise, more intensive consideration must be given to how the best interests of the child can be taken into account even more strongly in the entire process. In addition, there is a possible new indicator for the success of the project, as the employers enable a better way of balancing family life and work not only for the mothers involved in the project, but also for all parents who are constantly balancing work and looking after young children.

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