Straight Talk
Ewan King • Director of Business Development and Delivery • Social Care Institute for Excellence

Ewan King considers how to build the future social care workforce.

Hard Brexit or softer Brexit? Strong economy or weaker economy? How will the future – and the political context we find ourselves in – affect social care and support services and the people supported by them? How can we meet the workforce demands of the future?

In the summer, we held a set of discussions with key stakeholders that went on to form part of a wider research project, supported by the JP Morgan Chase Foundation. It led to our latest discussion paper, Care workers: building the future social care workforce, suggesting a set of actions that can could attract more skilled care workers – whatever economic or political scenario the sector may face.

It focuses on three hypothetical future scenarios which would impact on recruitment, training and retention of care workers. These are:

  • A sunny outlook – but is social care in the shade?
  • Weathering the storm – the UK leaves the European Economic Area (EEA) with economy performing strongly.
  • A change in the weather – the UK leaves the EEA, leading to economic uncertainty.

In the first scenario, for example, here’s what our crystal-ball-gazing suggests might be one set of occurrences. The UK might remain in the EEA, but restrictions would be made on unqualified EEA migrants. Cross-sector investment would make care homes more sustainable and generate more attractive salaries and careers. New roles, for instance care co-ordinator or care navigator jobs, could be created, which could both attract and retain staff. Older workers looking for career changes could be fast-tracked. We could see an expansion of community-based smaller providers and personal assistants.

This, and the other scenarios we focus on, paint many other different pictures to help consider the future. We hope that they will be useful as political developments unfurl in 2017 and beyond.

Whatever the scenario, the social care workforce faces a difficult few years. As demand grows, so will the need to find new workers. Here are just two statistics that put the challenge in context and our paper cites many more; the number of people over 85 in the UK is predicted to more than double in the next 23 years to over 3.4 million. There could be an 18% increase (up to 1.83 million) in adult social care jobs by 2025.

How do we meet this demand? One conclusion is to embrace co-production. This means fully involving people who use services and carers at every stage of the planning, delivery and review of care and support services.

One of the emerging recommendations is that recruitment is led by service users and carers. Specifically, considering a new nationally-sponsored, but locally-managed, training programme, led and delivered by people who use services.

SCIE trustee, Dr Ossie Stuart, who also uses services, said, ‘I have a right to well-run services that are designed around me and which address the requirements I have identified. Instead, I always seem to have to be satisfied with much less than that. Worse still, I have to be grateful for it. 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”.’

Ossie goes on to say that what’s needed to combat the challenges we mention, is a well-trained workforce. He says it needs to be valued in terms of the pay and the support it receives so that, in turn, care workers can value the people they should answer to – the people who use services and their families.

With this in mind, we will continue to work with sector leaders to develop and share potential approaches. We’re also exploring how we can develop a programme of user-led recruitment and training with partners, embracing co-production as one way of addressing the challenges of the future.

Ewan King is Director of Business Development and Delivery at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Twitter: @EwanDKing

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Care workers: building the future social care workforce

Hypothetical future scenarios

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