Opinion

Sending a wrong message

Karolina Gerlich, CEO and Founding Director, National Association of Care & Support Workers Ltd

There has been a lot of campaigning recently around CCTV inside care homes and care workers wearing body cams in home care. 

The fear and worries of families and people using care services are understandable, especially in the light of media coverage of social care. It is absolutely unacceptable that some people have experienced horrific abuse and treatment in care settings or in their own homes, and preventing such things happening again is extremely important. As the sector we have to do more to protect people we work with and give their families more reassurance.  

I believe, though, that the CCTV/body camera approach will actually have a long-term detrimental effect on the quality of care. 

Only a small proportion of the workforce is party to the horrific instances we have seen in the media. This small proportion of staff – that should not have been given the job in the first place – should not destroy our trust in the rest of care workers. 

The abusive incidents could have been prevented if more robust and detailed values-based recruitment practices were more widely adopted or accepted as the industry standard. This type of recruitment has been proven to work well and gives very good quality assurance of those being employed. If we limit the number of ‘bad apples’ in the sector from the point-of-entry, we will reduce cases of misconduct.  

We should also combine values based recruitment with a proper registration of care workers. This would give us entry requirements and ability to ban people from the profession if they are ever found to be abusive. At the moment we do not have this ability and the few ‘bad apples’, unless taken to court, are able to continue working in care.  

Furthermore, constant monitoring of care settings and peoples’ homes is an intrusion on their privacy and dignity. This goes against the personalised care that we all aim for.

A workforce that is constantly watched is a workforce that is not trusted. Trust is paramount to delivering great quality of care. If care workers feel that they are trusted they will feel more connected to their roles and provide better care. 

CCTV or body cameras are also not preventative like better entry requirements and training. They can only help investigate issues after they have already taken place. Prevention should be the focus of safeguarding of vulnerable people.  

We must not contribute to the societal perception and image of care workers as thieving abusers. We cannot ascribe to a 1.5-million strong workforce the characteristics of the very few. 

In addition to more widely adopted values-based recruitment, we need to look at training standards. Care workers must learn more about safeguarding and, most of all, reporting. For that, though, we need a culture of safe reporting that — at the moment — does not exist in the industry. It would be a confidential system where issues can be reported at early stages and dealt with efficiently; a system that does not penalise care workers and protects them from job loses. 

It would be highly beneficial to peoples’ safety if code of conduct training was better delivered with more space for discussion. Talking more about real-life examples could vastly improve care workers’ understanding of specific issues and situations and their role in solving them. Having open and transparent conversations about shared responsibility for the lives and wellbeing of people and practical implications of this could help care workers feel more individually involved in safeguarding.

We need to stop the trend of throwing around words such as “safeguarding” or “whistleblowing” without equipping care workers with the knowledge and tools to use them. 

We must invest in the social care workforce so they can deliver care — not limit trust and damage relationships.

 

 

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