Professionalisation of care workers

September 4, 2019

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Care has produced a report focusing on the workforce issues in social care, calling for professionalisation of care workers.

The inquiry, Elevation, Registration & Standardisation: The Professionalisation of Social Care Workers, heard open and confidential evidence over a six-month period, from people with expertise and experience, including care workers, employers and sector organisations and charities.

In collating evidence for the report, the APPG on Social Care was told by front-line workers, 'The two days induction didn’t really teach me anything, there was very little training, and then only two hours of shadowing. I can remember getting out there and thinking I don’t know how to use this machine, what do I do? I’d been involved in PEG-feeds despite having no training.'

Other social care staff said:

'We are the employers of last resort. All of our staff in Warrington left because Amazon opened up a distribution centre, and they paid £9.50 an hour.'

'Because the pay is so low, the employers probably know the candidate isn’t the ideal person for the job, but they have to take them anyway.'

'I worked out, over one month, I did nearly 210 hours work and was actually paid for 105. Over a working week I don’t get to see my kids for three or four days, and I’d be paid for seven and a half hours work when, with travel, I’d actually done 15 hours.'

'It’s close to below minimum wage. I’m forced to rip off my carers every week by not paying them petrol money.'

'I spent £53 one weekend in taxis doing visits. I did two half days of training. On my first day I was shadowing. On my second day I got called to do proper work. Then I had 127 hours of end of life care. They took £100 off you for your DBS and your uniform. I ended up in a right state from my first job – I ended up poorly. Stayed there two months, and ended up off with stress. Signed off by the doctor.'

'People look at care and think it’s an easy job. You can have 15 people start one week, and one left the next. They don’t explain to people what the job actually is.'

The report calls for an immediate and urgent national programme to be created for the professionalisation of care workers. The APPG on Social Care says this should be sponsored by Government to implement the following vital reforms:

  • The establishment of a new, identifiable, national care body for England with NHS affiliation, implying equal status with NHS staff.
  • Mandatory registration of all social care workers within 24-36 months, in line with the devolved nations – this timeframe should include the drafting and consideration of the legislation.
  • A defined qualification package, starting from a reformed, compulsory and accredited Care Certificate. This should lead to an engaging framework of training and various career development pathways, badging or digital credentials for the employee, and transferable qualifications, so that providers don't need to retrain staff or repeat induction programmes.
  • The consolidation of funding for workforce training in England into one single body.
  • As part of the immediate national programme, a collaborative exploration between existing sector stakeholders in England, Social Care Wales, the Scottish Social Services Council and the Northern Ireland Social Care Council, into the desirability and feasibility of new, equivalent NHS-signified sector bodies offering corresponding regulation, standards and fluid, equal qualifications and skills structures.

Louise Haigh MP said, 'Beneath the deafening racket of Brexit, real people are quietly living real lives, and few have suffered as much as a consequence of the Westminster policy void as those providing or receiving social care, day in, day out.

'This cross-party report shows quite vividly that the sector is systemically broken. Whilst it requires serious, sustained funding, the sector equally requires fundamental reform and that must begin with the professionalisation of its chronically under-valued, exploited and degraded workforce. The findings of this inquiry report should form the premise of that urgent conversation going forward.'

Gillian Keegan MP said, 'Every organisation depends on their workforce, the talent and dedication of their staff. Nowhere is this more critical than with social care. Millions of people across the country rely on social care to get up in the morning, live their best lives and be cared for with dignity. As this report highlights, the ability to attract and retain people to work in this sector is seriously challenged. This is because these vital roles are undervalued and under invested in. This cross-party report should be the start of reforming the sector and rightly valuing the people who work in it. We need to provide a 21st century funding model for social care but all options will need a highly valued and professionally trained workforce to deliver that care.'

Professor Jill Manthorpe said, 'The next steps for this report will be…to start the journey of working out what a legislative framework would look like. As a first start to any drafting, the principles in this report should assist with this task. I know that the Parliamentarians responsible for this ground-breaking report look forward to comments and suggestions.'

The APPG on Social Care is jointly Chaired by Louise Haigh MP and Gillian Keegan MP. The report is published on Professional Care Workers Day, which celebrates the vital work all those in the social care sector do on a daily basis.

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Suzie Lloyd
Suzie Lloyd

It is not merely the ‘image’ surrounding care work and care workers, nor the lowly pay; not even the terms and conditions of employment, especially in Home Care, that need reform. It is about what the job actually entails. Lone working without direct support, the complexities, constantly needing to reorient oneself from one journey/one visit to another, never knowing what one might find at each visit, difficult customers, (and families) and a Legal framework which, if breached, can lead to criminal prosecution. I am explicit at the informal discussions I conduct and, needless to say, of the few candidates who… Read more »