Interview with Peter Prucha, founder of Harino Care

It’s often said that there’s a “care crisis”, with every-increasing demand and dwindling resources. One imagines that this problem is not unique to the UK – and who better to ask about this than someone who has experience from more than one country? We therefore caught up with Peter Prucha, co-founder of Theale-based Harino Care, to ask him about his journey from the Czech Republic to the UK, via South Africa

I believe you’re from the Czech Republic. When did you move to the UK?

That’s right. I was born in Prague and lived in the Czech Republic until 1991. I then lived in South Africa for eight years and became accustomed to having English friends around me. So, in 2005, when the Czech Republic became part of the EU, my wife and I moved to the UK.

Have you worked in the care sector in the Czech Republic?

No, I’m an entrepreneur by nature. I specialize in IT security and was involved in the airline industry and IT before setting up Harino Care.

What opportunities did you see here that made you decide to set up Harino Care?

My wife, Barbara, has been working as a carer since we came to the UK. She started in a care home and then worked for a care agency in Lincolnshire. The care there was very different from the south of England at that time. In Lincolnshire, carers were assigned to a client for the whole day or night, spending quality time and helping with everyday chores. Usually, the client had the same carers visiting regularly. When we moved to Reading, the system was different. Visits were sometimes only 15 minutes, multiple times per day, with no paid driving time, and clients were assigned without considering travel distance and time.

When Barbara started her NVQ5 to become a Registered Manager, I established Harino Care with the idea that she would serve a small number of private clients with a couple of employed carers. However, when the company became fully registered, the demand for care from local authorities was high. The company grew quickly and after the first six months, I left my job to become a full-time Director to manage the growth and expansion of the team.

Tell us briefly about Harino Care today, such as what services it provides and in what area it operates.

We provide all types of live-in and domiciliary care services, including companion visits, personal hygiene, food preparation, medication administration, light household cleaning and washing. We also offer specialized care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, stroke care, PEG feeding, catheter maintenance, and palliative care for people at the end of their lives.

What are the main differences in the way social care is provided in the two countries?

As mentioned earlier, there are differences even within parts of the UK. In the Czech Republic, local care agencies receive financial packages to cover certain areas. They provide care using a mix of state funds and client charges. This ratio varies across the country, and some clients receive additional benefits to cover the private portion of the fees.

What do you think each country could learn from the other with regard to social care?

The best system I experienced was in Lincolnshire around 2005. Two or three carers would visit a client, spend time together, take the client to outpatient appointments, look after the household, and often take the client for social visits to friends or family. Not every client needs this level of care, but it is a good balance between live-in care and standard domiciliary care.

It’s often said that there’s a crisis in social care in the UK. Do you agree with this?

Yes, I do. We can see and feel the budget cuts, and local councils have to reduce the thresholds for who is eligible for state-funded care and to what extent.

Has Brexit contributed to this?

Brexit has limited access to the European workforce, which is a problem for sectors where native British citizens don’t want to work. It’s all down to pay. When you convert the wages to local currencies in many European countries, people are willing to do this sometimes difficult and exhausting work for that benefit. Now we are recruiting carers from all over the world, but each carer costs us over £2,000 under the Work Visa sponsorship scheme. It is a complex process and too expensive for many smaller agencies to obtain the visa sponsorship license.

Is the sector also facing problems in the Czech Republic?

Yes, there are issues there, especially in finding people dedicated to the job. Some say, that “a carer has to be born a carer. You can’t train everyone to be a carer.” Also, most families in the Czech Republic care for their relatives themselves. People don’t migrate for work as often as in the UK, and parents and children usually live close to each other. People don’t sell their homes to pay for care when they become old.

If you had the power to do it, what would be the one thing you’d change to improve the social-care situation in the UK?

Everyone who worked in the UK and paid taxes during their life should be entitled to free state-funded quality care regardless of their savings. Wealthy people have paid more taxes during their lives, so they shouldn’t be excluded from state-funded care just because they accumulated some wealth?

Imagine if you can that this is Desert Island Discs. What would be the one song you’d want to have above all others?

Not an easy question. I love many songs of different kinds. It depends on my mood and the situation.

And the book?

Any of Dick Francis’ titles.

And the luxury object?

I think a never-ending bottle of fresh water would be a good luxury item – and perhaps even an essential one…

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale