The diversity of the population that is supported by social care should be mirrored by diversity in the make-up of the staff team.
If we are truly going to deliver personalised care services to greater numbers of people, we have to have a staff team that is as diverse as the communities we serve.
However, there is a real challenge because diversity is often thought of in terms of race, gender, sexuality, age or disability, but underlying all these categories, there are a range of different life experiences that should also be seen as legitimate in terms of the diversity of the workforce.
If we look at the categories that are enshrined in law, they are fairly blunt instruments and they do not really encompass the diversity of experience and expectations which people who use services might have. To illustrate this, if you look at pure categories, you would see a white woman living in the stockbroker belt in Surrey, with significant amounts of money and access to other resources, in the same category as a white woman living in a mining community in the North of England, on the basic state pension. Both these people should have the same rights of access to services, but they might have had very different life experiences and different desires and expectations of what the care sector could deliver to them.
One of the ways in which care can be very positive in redressing inequalities, is to look at how we can attract people who do not currently engage in work because of a range of caring or family responsibilities. Often these are the very people who would make excellent carers, but because of the inflexibility in the system, they are not being nurtured and encouraged into a sector where they could really make a big contribution.
We need to think creatively about how we encourage a diverse group of people to enter the care sector and this will require us to think about what are the current blocks to their employment within care.
I saw recently a care provider who had developed new approaches to interviewing staff. There were far fewer formal interviews, which can be very intimidating for some people and applicants are encouraged to work alongside existing staff so that they could get an understanding of the work and the employer could see the values they possessed, and how they engaged with the service user. There was also a real commitment to having interviews at different times within the day. This helped people who wanted to enter the workforce, but have other responsibilities to schedule the interviews around their needs. Social care is a 24/7 occupation and this enables us to be much more flexible in the way in which we deploy staff.
The diversity of people who use our services must be reflected in our staff and we need to have a very open and welcoming attitude to ensuring that people, who are often excluded from work, are given the opportunities to pursue the rewarding careers that we offer in social care.
The demographics clearly show that over the next 20 years we will see huge increases in need and unless we start developing our recruitment and retention processes, we will find ourselves in a crisis where there are not enough staff to cover the services people require. We need to embrace diversity and technology because in the future we will have to secure our workforce from a range of different backgrounds and experiences, and we will have to harness the power of technology to ensure we deliver good quality services in the most efficient and flexible way possible.