The Health and Social Care Committee Report (HSCC) 25th July 2022 calls for the government to provide its workforce plan for the NHS and social care (promised in spring 2022 but still not yet published) and provides several practical recommendations for the plan.
The report appropriately recognises the gravity of the situation facing the social care sector, stating that, in comparison to the NHS, “the situation is regrettably worse in social care”, referencing incredibly high staff vacancy and turnover rates and poor working conditions.
Key recommendations in the HSSC report regarding the social care workforce include: • Higher baseline pay for care workers, reflecting the true value to society of the service they provide • Sustainable strategies in terms of pay progression, professional development, and career pathways • Contract choices offered to care workers on zero-hours contracts • A call for the government to produce an externally validated care certificate, provided at no cost to care providers, and is transferable between care providers and the NHS Refreshingly, large sections of the report focus specifically on the social care workforce; a workforce often ignored in conversations around health and care
The report makes some promising recommendations, but according to Mary Brown of Public Policy Projects it falls short in several areas. Care workers sick pay or overtime renumeration is not as equivalent as NHS workers, nor do they receive the public admiration or ‘sweeteners’ (including NHS staff discounts offered by many businesses).
Another PPP’s recommendation, which was not addressed by the HSCC report, is the potential creation of cross-sector roles between health and care, as well as placements and secondments of NHS staff into social care. This would help raise the status of social care by actualising a parity of esteem between the NHS and social care workforces. It would also serve to increase the awareness and visibility of the social care system within the NHS, and aide in the integration of the workforces.
Public Policy Projects recommendations
A report produced by PPP’s is concerned about the need to elevate the status of care work, to raise the profile of those working in care. The report notes the boost in public sentiment towards nursing that followed Florence Nightingale’s work during the Crimean war and stresses the need for a similar shift to take place for care work.
Not only would this ‘Nightingale shift’ boost staff morale, but the PPP’s also argues that it would help to address recruitment and retention issues, provided it is accompanied by improvements to pay and conditions.
To kickstart this ‘Nightingale shift’, the PPP’s report recommends that the government should provide investment for positive advertising campaigns for social care careers, with clear messaging of the immense value of a career in care and its potential to transform lives. In conjunction with this, it recommends that care providers should be working with careers advisors in schools to promote care work to young people as an attractive and fulfilling career.
Training was highlighted as a key area in the HSCC report. However, the PPP’s recommendation, which was not addressed by the HSCC report, is the potential creation of cross-sector roles between health and care, as well as placements and secondments of NHS staff into social care. This would help raise the status of social care by actualising a parity of esteem between the NHS and social care workforces. It would also serve to increase the awareness and visibility of the social care system within the NHS, and aide in the integration of the workforces.
The HSCC report also focuses on mandatory Care Certificates, which should be offered, at no cost, to care providers, and are transferrable between care providers and the NHS. This is undoubtedly a sensible recommendation.
The PPP’s report further recommends the establishment of a Royal College of Care Professionals. The institution of a Royal College would serve the dual purpose of professionalising the workforce and secure an elevation in its status, as well as providing a central body which can represent, support, and oversee the development of, the care workforce.
The HSCC report is designed to draw the attention of the Government into the crises facing social care in terms of workforce: recruitment, training and retention of staff.
There is a good deal in the report that recognises the disparity between care workers and NHS staff wages and working conditions.
The PPP’s report strives to seek parity of social care workers with NHS and offers a number of recommendations to this end. The establishment of a Royal College of Care Professionals would give those working in the social care sector a professional voice along with the much-needed care workers elevation of status.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy