Derek Johnson is the outgoing chair of the National Association of Care Caterers (NACC) and winner of the Public Sector Caterer Award at the 2011 Cateys. Janie Stamford caught up with him at the annual Training and Development Forum
What is the biggest issue facing care caterers at the moment? It's funding, whether you're in the public or private sector, because ultimately you're always bound by the budget of the individual that is going into care. Eligibility criteria has changed in the past couple of years.
Traditionally, there were four levels: critical, substantial, moderate and low. As funding has become tighter, people who fall into moderate and low have been signposted to other providers to purchase their own services.
What impact has that had? Now the pressure is on because there is nowhere else to go. People who have substantial and critical needs are going to need the service regardless. It's a case of trying to do more for less funding and we're all looking at different ways of utilising resources. According to the Association of Public Sector Advisers, the social care budget is getting £1b but the cost of providing it in real terms is £1.2b.
What would you like to see happen? We'd like to see more money but that isn't going to be the solution. We need to work together with other providers within the sector, like healthcare and social care. Savings can be made when social care services prevent hospital or healthcare interaction.
How can contract caterers support the care catering sector? Private contractors bring in a more commercial attitude to some services and actually raise the level of standard of care catering.
They bring more of a hotel-style service - it sounds expensive, but they have the business acumen to develop the service cost-effectively.
So an increase in private contractors in care catering is beneficial? They're coming in at a different angle and looking at it like a commercial business, but as long as they maintain the core standards and skills it will benefit everyone. Hopefully it will raise the bar for us all. The standards of our NACC Care Cook of the Year competition have gone up and up. Any one of this year's finalists would have won the first final.