During recent months a great deal of debate in social care has rightly focused upon the crises in social care funding.
But there is another, far less discussed crisis within this sector; the workforce crisis, and comprehensive evidence presented to The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Care July 2019 suggests that it is widespread, acute and urgent.
High quality, sustainable social care is fundamental to a healthy and dignified society yet care workers - the vital frontline foundation of the social care system - are too often overlooked in terms of investment, training, remuneration and value.
The APPG inquiry set out to examine in detail the status quo for staff working within the care sector, including the frameworks that exist for professional development, the service levels required and provided in the care sector, and opportunities and systems for training, development and remuneration of social care workers.
Higher quality of training
The report recognises that nurses and healthcare assistants presently working in NHS are rightly cherished by the public and courted by political actors, but the same cannot be said for their colleagues providing all levels of vital care, that is increasingly medicalised, complex healthcare.
The fact that values led, dedicated carers are so undervalued and undermined must be systemically corrected. It would seem self-evident that the higher the quality of the training that care workers receive, the more care work will be given the status and respect it deserves. In turn, more people will be attracted to it, and vitally, if there is real scope for career development & learning new skills – people will remain in the care sector.
There is a need for a substantial funding settlement in social care as a matter of national priority. The inquiry concluded that workforce reform must be carried out simultaneously to avoid financial wastage on a broken and incoherent system. The group fervently believe that by putting party political differences to one side, it can help to deliver a system that both care workers and the cared for deserve.
‘National Care Service’
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Care said a ‘National Care Service’ should be set up to further professionalise the workforce and provide “national identity” for social care. A national care body would give the sector a “bespoke identity” and equal status with the NHS, the group said. It would also be able to design a new standardised training and career development framework and would promote greater integration with NHS services, it added.
The group has also called for a governing council for the national care body that would establish the mandatory registration of all care workers in England within two to three years, and a defined qualification package, starting from a reformed, compulsory and accredited Care Certificate.
This qualification package would formally recognise pre-existing, medicalised and complex care skills that “too often go unacknowledged, unvalued and unrewarded”, the APPG on Social Care said.
Labour MP Louise Haigh, vice chair of APPG on Social Care, said: “This cross-party report shows quite vividly the sector is systemically broken.
“While 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 should form the premise of that urgent conversation going forward.”
Welcoming the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Developing a fully-fledged professional social care workforce is something which councils encourage, and this must be recognised as a major long-term project.
“Social care work should be seen as valuable and rewarding in its own right and achieving parity of esteem between the NHS and social care workforces is important.”
Kelly Andrews, national officer for Care at GMB, the union for care workers, added: “This ground-breaking cross-party report is very welcome – especially after seeing the long-awaited social care green paper kicked into the long grass over and over again.
“It’s encouraging to see politicians of all stripes putting forward a bold plan to fix a care sector that is crumbling around our ears.”
The report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Care is warmly welcomed. For far too long the valuable contribution made by social care staff needs to be acknowledged in terms of people who receive the service, but also in savings made through prevention of admissions to hospitals.
If the NHS and social care are to work more closely together, we must see a professionalisation of social care staff through higher quality training and recognised qualifications. Only then will social care workers achieve parity of esteem with NHS staff.
Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy