The recruitment and retention of skilled care workers has never been more critical – given the pressure on the social care sector. There are real challenges to confront here.
Working in social care sector is not considered an attractive career option for a start. Indeed it ranks very low in any league table. Not all staff feel valued and not all staff receive the kind of development support they need to succeed in their work. Progression paths are limited so that good people often move away to find promotion or new opportunities. In addition, the kind of people with the right values and attitudes for social care work are not easy to find.
Unless these issues can be effectively addressed, the quality of services is not going to improve so we need some practical strategies which would make a difference.
The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) brought together a group of key stakeholders to consider how we might respond to the challenges we face in recruiting care workers.
In particular we looked at:
- How can we better attract the right people from local communities?
- How can we develop care workers’ skills without creating a profession which builds barriers to access?
- Should we target specific groups of potential recruits (e.g. mothers returning to work)?
- How can we improve the social care ‘brand’ so that people are better disposed to working in care as a career option?
- How can we draw on the good practice which does exist around the country?
We are indebted to the JP Morgan Chase Foundation for providing us with the resources to enable us to ask the questions and consider possible solutions.
Lord Michael Bichard
Social Care Institute for Excellence
The future of social care
When asked to think about the kind of social care service I would want to use in the future, the first thought that came to mind is the past. My first experience of social care was in a care home for young disabled people that was extremely unpleasant and humiliating, and one I doubt anyone would condone today.
Why is this relevant to the question I have been asked? Well, I could talk about the lack of real choice and control that users and carers have; or the lack of trust that administrators have when it comes to money held by users; or the chronic lack of funding for social care in general. But this, in my opinion, would not really address a deeper question about the kind of social care service and workforce we want in the future.
When using social care, it is hard to feel like I am an equal citizen, a full participant in our society. Rather, as just ‘service users’, it seems as if I should not enjoy full rights to decent services and a right of redress when things go wrong. Or, as significantly, the right to well-run services that are designed around me and the requirements I have identified. Instead, I seem always to have to be satisfied with much less and, worse, to be grateful for it.
No, this is not good enough. To make services work for people and their families who need them requires a sea change in how we think about ‘value’.
Social care has to recognise the value in the lives of the people they are supporting and listen and react to their wishes. It requires a workforce that values the people they are working with. It is not just a job, it is a relationship, and an equal one. It is no coincidence that in the 30 plus years I have employed personal assistants to work with me I have rarely, if ever, employed someone who has had previous care worker experience.
A future social care service needs to embed value in everything it does. This is not a word, it is a behaviour and it will not be easy. It requires a shift in power away from the administrators and towards the people who use social care.
It requires a new well-trained workforce, which is valued in itself in terms of the pay and the support it receives so that, in turn, care workers can value the people it should answer to – the people who use services and their families.
Finally, social care services need to be reimagined as a service that people will want to use when they have to and feel safe and empowered when doing so. Yes, these are big challenges, but, in my opinion, this is what is at stake.
Dr Ossie Stuart