To find good employees, service users need to be involved in recruitment and training

Featured article - 18 November 2016
Ewan King, SCIE's director of business development and delivery

Head-shot of the author, Ewan King, SCIE's director of business development and delivery

Shortly after I left university I went to a jobs fair. It was in the cavernous Design Centre in Islington and I didn't stay long. Looking back now, I think I found it intimidating. Yes there were lots of colourful stands and smart looking people talking up jobs in big corporate companies, but I gained little sense of what the jobs actually entailed.

In talking to people for the JP Morgan Chase Foundation research on recruitment, retention and progression in social care, I was struck by the number of people looking for jobs in public service encountering a similar problem. Confronted by glossy websites and polished recruitment agents on the one hand, or a complete lack of any information on another (this is not a sector awash with money!) they are left feeling a bit cold. What, they ask, is social care all about? What are the benefits? Where will my career go if I join the social care workforce.

As our new future-focused policy report argues, what ever the future, hard or soft brexit, left or right government, the social care workforce faces a difficult few years. As demand grows, so will the need to find new workers. And we want people who are right for social care. And we want people who don't walk away, left cold by the next corporate jobs fair.

This is the time to think very differently. One of the recommendations emerging from the research is that instead of recruitment led by corporate recruiters or in traditional professional-led ways, why not have it led by service users and carers themselves. And by this I don't mean having service users simply turn up to tell people how good their care home or day centre is. I mean service users and carers designing, managing and delivering the recruitment process and methods of assessment and induction too. Real coproduction of the whole process, and being paid for their time.

Why do all this? First, because service users know better than anyone what good care is. They can tell people what it's really like - the good and the bad. Yes this may put some people off, but it will also convince many that it's the career for them. Secondly, we are convinced that involving service users in designing services helps improve that service, as it draws on their ideas and beliefs - the same can apply to recruitment and training. And thirdly, we think it could really work.

Ossie Stewart, a SCIE Trustee and service user, designed and led a recruitment programme recently in Redbridge. It really worked, with 20 jobs massively oversubscribed. He was also confident that this approach was successful in recruiting the right people with the right values.

So next time you are at a job fair, ask someone representing a social care employer not for an information pack, ask to meet some service users.

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