The Social Care Staffing Crisis and the Social Care Academies
It is widely recognised that there are major problems in many aspects of social care in the UK. Shortages of staff and physical infrastructure seems to be widespread. Anyone who has tried to find a place in a care home for an elderly relative can probably attest to the shortage of places. We are aware of local authorities who are so short of Social Workers that they are struggling to fulfil the statutory obligations in areas such as hospital discharges.
The consequences of the issues in social care are wide-ranging.
First, by definition, social care services are there to support and protect the most vulnerable of us. Failures can have headline-creating consequences but, just as worryingly, significant ongoing negative impacts on a significant number of people.
Secondly, it is part of the wider health and social care system. The knock-on effects on the NHS are well documented and that impact is felt particularly keenly in the acute sector with patients who would be better cared for in the social care sector having to remain in hospital due to capacity constraints.
Addressing the funding available to social care is part of the solution. However, we have to recognise that funding in itself is not all of the solutions. Creating a well-qualified and motivated workforce is vital. It is the long-term answer to the issues. It is also apparent that the remuneration levels available for some very important roles are less than can be achieved in other environments. The solutions will only work if they are part of a comprehensive approach to workforce planning at all levels.
An overall approach to the staffing issue is required. We do not have the answers to increasing pay, but we do believe that Social Care Academies using the modern apprenticeship route can play a role in regenerating the broad social care workforce.
An image Issue affects social care careers, including professional positions. For many, the careers available are not as attractive or prestigious as many others. Social Care Academies are, in many ways, about getting that resolved – creating and promoting careers that are seen as worthwhile.
The way it has been expressed to me by a Director in a London Borough was that he wanted to attract local people to join the Council‘s and the wider social care workforce, be provided with a clear career path and proactively developed through that path. In that way the aim is that the social care workforce more closely mirrors the communities it supports, and staff feel rewarded and more likely to stay, reducing staff turnover.
The Social Care Academy
The concept of the Social Care Academy is one that can cover some or all the broad scope of Social Care careers including Social Workers, Care Assistants, Occupational Therapists, Speech and Language Therapists, nurses etc. The requirements of each career will differ. However, at the heart of the approach is paid employment by a service provider (possibly not just the local authority) and structured in-house and external skills development towards a qualification. This is a long-term strategic approach - it will not change things overnight. But, in two to three years the fruits of the approach are likely to be seen.
At Scale is well placed to provide support to get a full-scale Social Academy or more limited apprenticeship schemes going in a structured way. We have experience in the sector and bring a powerful mix of skill sets to bear including those relating to social care, training and development, finance and governance.