On Friday 9th May 2014, Matthew Hancock, Health and Social Care secretary officially opened iCareHealths’ newly refurbished office in the UK. The office has been designed to promote a collaborative, transparent and innovative working environment for our employees and clients. The opening also served as an opportunity to hold a round-table lunch. The role technology will play in addressing the skills and workforce development in the social care sector were discussed.

With attendees including social care providers; National Care Association, Care England, Boots, Superdrug Pharmacy and the Minister for Health and Social Care. The discussions were robust and informing. Below we have outlined the key areas attendees felt important. To get the social care sector to enhance workforce skills and meet the demands of an ageing population. To facilitate the discussions, iCareHealth conducted a survey of social care providers. This helped understand the perceptions and investment providers make into the training of their workforce. The presentation highlights the key findings from the survey.

Mr Hancock opened the round-table discussion. He recognised that budgets are tight within the sector at a time when change is increasing. Attracting, developing and retaining a workforce that can meet the demands of the sector is paramount.

This was highlighted in iCareHealth’s survey with providers recognising the importance of training their workforce in order to achieve this. With over 66 per cent of provider’s surveyed saying they had invested in training for more than 70 per cent of their workforce in the last 12 months.

Training Approach

Respondents in the survey had mixed views about the style and approach to training. The underlying theme was that a blended approach was favoured. This consists of a mix of one day courses, face to face on the job training and e-learning.  Discussions at the round-table supported the survey findings with Ian Lloyd from Superdrug Stores plc stating; “You have to engage the individual in their learning, people don’t learn in the same way so you cannot train them in the same way.”

Natalie Emmerson from Primary Care UK supported this, “Team members like choice and flexibility, we talk about person centric care delivery but what about person centric training for our workers.”

E-learning was recognised as an important part of the mix. Nadra Ahmed from National Care Association said, “The cost savings achieved via e-learning are brilliant and it also saves a lot of administration time.”

E-learning is specifically beneficial when it is used as a refresher to other training method. Or for certain modules such as health and safety. The flexibility that e-learning offers field workers is essential. Workers can fit training around their complex schedules and this can all be tracked centrally by management as part of the audit trail.  However e-learning does not give the practical experience that is needed to carry out certain tasks essential to the job. Face to face training cannot be overlooked and, using a driving test as an analogy, both theory and practical are essential.

In the workplace

Kathryn Goodfellow from Superdrug Stores plc said, “E-learning can teach the processes and procedures, but these don’t necessarily help deliver the care aspect.” The job requires workers to interact and communicate with residents and service users and as Richard Williams from Carers at Home and Chair of Surrey Care Association mentioned, “It is not just about getting the process and documentation right in order to comply, carer workers need to have common sense, good spoken English and have a caring and cheerful attitude in order to deliver quality care. They may be the only person a service user sees all day. We can improve people’s lives, not just their care.”

The Care minister Norman Lamb recently commented on the lack of requirements in place to ensure care workers have a compulsory minimum standard of training and competence, and has insisted on change. However the move towards certifying workers before they enter the care profession is set to rest with the employer. The concern raised among the roundtable was that this just adds another factor for providers to worry about. The framework for training is constantly changing. Providers need clarity about what training material is accredited and enforced. This can ensure providers meet the standards set within the certificate.

Staff Retention

Staff retention within the social care sector is particularly challenging, with 14 per cent of providers having experience between a 31-50 percent staff turnover in the past 12 months. Whilst multiple factors contribute to staff turnover, with minimum wages and local competition being key. The underlying theme throughout the discussion highlighted the importance of the recruitment process.
Prospective employees need total transparency of the tasks the job entails and the culture of the organisation before they enter the interview process. The interview then needs to focus on the person and their attitudes towards care delivery before looking at to the current skill set held.

Training will then up skill these employees to ensure they are competent and confident in the care they deliver. If carers understand the problem and best way to approach it within a stressful environment, this will improve job satisfaction and ultimately staff retention.

Nadra commented, “Post training, you also need supervision and appraisal if you want to improve staff retention”.

This includes analysing the business processes and looking for areas on improvement.

“Managers also need to be up skilled to cope with the change in industry requirements and business pressures in order to ensure they can continually support their team” said Simon Martin, CEO iCareHealth.

Career Pathways

Mr Hancock highlighted a key issue within the social care sector, “There is no clear career pathway. Work needs to be done to break these barriers and communication will play an important role.”

People need to be educated about the career options available to them within social care.

“Domiciliary care is full of opportunities; care workers have the potential to become supervisors, managers and even run their own businesses as their careers progress,” said Richard. However the need for a clear framework of career progression was agreed by all.

Roger André, the Mayor of Haverhill town said, “Schools are working hard in this area, but it is extremely difficult to explain to schools and pupils the career structure and opportunities available in the sector.”

There is also a constant media focus on highlighting the poorer practices which are a very small element in the social care sector. This is often generalised among providers. People don’t get to see the overwhelming majority of good work that goes on in the sector. Bringing more workers and managers into schools to discuss career options would improve the perception of the sector.

One of the fastest growing apprenticeships is within social care. Apprenticeships offer the opportunity for people to experience working within the sector. Both practically (on the job) and theoretically (classroom and/or e-learning).
Mr Hancock suggests building apprenticeships at a local level. Involvement of local organisations  ensure they best meet the needs and requirements of prospective employers.

12 suggestions to improve skills in social care

  • To wrap-up the round table discussion attendees were asked, what is one suggestion they have to improve skills in social care.
  • More funding needs to be made available to the social care sector (Richard Williams, Director, Carers at Home)
  • Make the career pathways clear (Jeff Dodd, CEO, Entrust IT)
  • Change the image and perception of working within the social care sector (Nadra Ahmed, Chairman, National Care Association)
  • Make training requirements practical – we can’t all be experts in everything (Kathryn Goodfellow, Care Services Development Manager, Superdrug Stores plc)
  • Pool data from across the sector to highlight common issues. These may need to be raised centrally in order to resolve them. Also share good practice among providers. (Alistair White, Marketing Consultant, Care England)
  • Have a central depository for training courses and information. These need to be government backed so everyone has the same resources and guidance that can be trusted. (Karis Brummitt, Marketing Executive, iCareHealth Ltd)
  • The need for more collaboration between providers in order to share good practice (Natalie Emmerson, Director, Primary Care UK)
  • Utilise pharmacies as professionals to work both patients and those administering the medication. (Steve Wilson, Head of Care Services Operations, Boots)
  • Make sure what happens in training is joined up with what is required to meet expectations and standards. (Ian Lloyd, Head of Healthcare Services, Superdrug Stores Ltd)
  • More focus on educating schools of the career opportunities within the social care sector. (Cllr André, Haverhill Town Mayor)
  • Focus on creating good leadership (Andrew Bellingham, Product Manager, Pharmacy and Care Homes, iCareHealth Ltd)
  • Introduce a baseline certificate solely for the social care sector (Rohan Vendy, Managing Director, iCareHealth Ltd)