CAREMARK GROWING IN PLYMOUTH
Ali and Graham Livingston launched Caremark (Plymouth) in November from a base at the Falcon Business Centre, at Langage.
Caremark is a domiciliary care business which has about 80 offices nationally, but Mr and Mrs Livingston are its trailblazers for Devon and Cornwall.
The couple have about 20 care workers who look after, mostly elderly, people in their homes.
Another three staff are employed in the office.
At present the franchise is caring for about 30 clients in the city and surrounding area.
These can be publicly paid for by organisations such as Plymouth City Council or the NHS, or from private sources.
But, like other businesses in the home care sector, the number of clients that a franchise can take onto its books is limited by the number of staff it has.
Therefore, Caremark is often on the lookout for staff, and Mr Livingston stressed they are paid above minimum wage.
But the franchise does use zero-hours agreements, though Mr Livingston stressed these are appropriate for the type of work offered.
“The staff are not self-employed, but are on zero-hours agreements,” he said. “It’s an area that gets a bad press, but that’s only because it has been abused by industries that do not need to use them.
“It’s actually very fluid, you can have 20-hour or 40-hour contracts.
“Out target is to be three times larger by the end of the year. We could have 50 to 60 people by then.”
Mr Livingston said care work often attracts potential workers from sectors that are constricting, such as hospitality.
But he said that as the economy improves that supply has tended to taper off.
However, health and social care degree, and even nursing degree, students are another source of labour.
Although, again, they tend to leave when they finish their studies and move into careers.
“We are very short of staff,” said Mr Livingston.
His wife added: “It’s hard to attract people as carers. Pay’s not the barrier, but I think people have expectations.”
Mr Livingston stressed the business is a seven-day-a-week operation, 7am to 10pm.
“The busy times are in the mornings and evenings,” he said. “People think they can do 40 hours, Monday to Friday, but it doesn’t always work like that.
“And you need your own transport, which can be a barrier.”
Mr Livingston is a former test equipment engineer with Plessey Semiconductors, in Plymouth, who took a redundancy package.
His wife is a qualified occupational therapist who worked in the mental health field for Plymouth City Council.
Mrs Livingston said they decided to run a Caremark franchise because “we wanted to make a difference”.
“We want to help our clients become as independent as possible,” she said.
“There are not enough care companies,” she added. “We have built up a bit of a business here, there’s a need for it and with an ageing populations it’s going to grow further.”