In case you missed it, and given the timing of the release that would not be surprising, the Department of Health and Social Care has just released a call for evidence relating to the proposed care workforce pathway for adult social care.
This is not the first time we have seen plans for the development of the social care workforce, nor will it be the last, but as usual and in common with all of the plans that went before it, it has the feel of an academic piece of work which is significantly divorced from the realities of your working lives. It is however worth having a look at and considering what you might like to contribute to the call for evidence.
One of the central tenets of the pathway plan is the development of a career pathway for adult social care workers. In essence the titles associated with the roles reflect those used in social work with the shop floor worker roles being entitled:
• Care and support practitioner.
• Advanced care and support practitioner.
• Senior care and support practitioner.
• Practice leader or specialist practitioner.
As well as face to face roles with Service Users the proposed tree diagram suggests roles of:
• Deputy registered manager.
• Registered manager.
As well as the other roles it also identifies a “registered workforce”, presumably nurses, allied health professionals and social workers. Although like the registered manager it is not clear if they are involved in any way in the pathway.
At the base of the tree is a foundation stage which relates to people contemplating joining the ASC workforce via traineeships and volunteering.
The proposal makes the suggestion that the care and support practitioner might be in the first 18 months of their career and undertaking the training they need to progress – oddly they suggest this might include the new Care Certificate, the current equivalent of which all carers currently complete in the first 12 weeks. There is no mention, yet, of NVQ or QCF qualifications.
They suggest that the role would have descriptors identifying what people in these positions would undertake as well as examples of their responsibilities, which will vary according to the place of work.
Notably they also identify that outlining the values needed to be a care and support practitioner, as well as the behaviours required in practice need defining – by the level of the worker. The role is also defined by the experience the individual brings as well as the knowledge and skills required.
The opportunities to develop, it is said, also need outlining, with progression to the higher roles being through continuing professional develop and the attainment of new levels of responsibilities, values, behaviours, experience and knowledge and skills. Each level being associated with specific definitions.
What this means for adult social care
The call for evidence suggest that the new pathways will mean that Service Users can expect a better level of care and support delivered in a more consistent manner. They also suggest that staff working in the sector will better understand their roles and what is required of them in terms of skills, knowledge and behaviours etc.
The suggestion is that people will also know what they need to do to progress their careers and so can engage in career planning.
Employers it is said will better understand what to expect in the way of knowledge and skills etc. from their staff. They will know what training and development they need to deliver and said training will be portable. The suggestion is also that providers will save money in relation to training and see improved retention.
As a lifelong academic I can see the lure of the proposed approach, it looks straightforward and linear and ticks many of the boxes ASC has been asking for. But there in lies the problem, it ticks boxes but does not have the feel of a realistic plan and fails to address the vagaries of the sector and the very real difference between the sorts of staff attracted to it.
One of the key issues is that there is a planned pathway before the call for evidence – all the best plans are based on evidence rather than looking for evidence after the fact. The old chestnut “we need to think afresh” is applied to the description of the pathway which feels anything but fresh. It is concerning for example that the model has a feel of healthcare about it with an emphasis on titles and hierarchy and that in essence little else looks fresh.
It is concerning that the pathway identifies a “new care certificate”, when the old one is arguably fit for purpose when it is actually applied properly – the issue being the lack of training for mentors, not the content.
The pathway also fails to address the biggest workforce issue in ASC which is arguably the lack of a consistent model for attaining registered manager status and the lack of development into, and then once in, the role.
Registration in any profession is associated both with status and often better pay as well as with additional accountability, i.e. the ability of the registering body to remove the individual from the register. This might improve the status of ASC as well as assuring the public of the status of the staff providing care to them and their loved ones. This is another key missed opportunity within the proposed pathway.
We have known for decades that employers have to get the hygiene factors, like pay and conditions, right before looking at the motivators like advancement and recognition if they are to retain good staff. As ever this elephant has been left standing in the corner as the money made available for social care continues to fall behind the increases in cost of living and the overheads providers must service before they can consider improving pay and conditions.
While welcoming any initiative which seeks to professionalise care and make the structures within ASC more understandable to a potential and the actual workforce, and to Service Users and their families, it does feel that this plan is more of the same old thinking rather than the fresh thinking it says it is.
Adding structure to careers and to the training pathways and attaching these to career progression is not a bad thing, but it is questionable as to whether this is what the people who work in ASC want or need and indeed if this will professionalise care provision.
Whatever you think about the proposals, all ASC providers and managers should at least read them and respond to the call for evidence. Failing to respond will mean you fail to play a role in shaping the pathway going forward and that perhaps you should not then complain when you do not get what you want form it as a result.
Bettal provides sector leading quality management systems, policies and procedures. Whatever sector of adult social care you work in, if you would like to know more, browse our website or get in touch using the details below.
Telephone: 01697 741 411
Peter Ellis MA MSc BSc(Hons) RN
Consultant, Bettal Quality Consultancy
Photo credit: Gov.uk