Learn Opinion

A sector doing things very differently

Jim Thomas

Skills for Care’s Head of Workforce Innovation Jim Thomas reflects on how the pandemic has forced adult social care to really think outside the box about how they offer their services.

The pressures and human tragedies caused by the pandemic have hit adult social care hard but it has also created a new climate in organisations where innovation and thinking differently have flourished.

In our sector innovation can be too localised, which is why Skills for Care decided to ask the sector how they were thinking outside the box, and then shared that through our website and social media channels.

What is innovative in one organisation might be common practice in another, and vice versa, but all the many examples which came in shared a common theme, that this was new ground for those providers.

So, for example, the team at Broad Street House in Folkestone never thought they would have to hire a huge crane to lower a portacabin into their back garden. They did that so they could create a new space, called The Cabin, which meant the 18 people aged 28 to 72 they work with could continue to access the activities they usually enjoyed at the local day centre that was closed.

The pandemic has forced many organisations to think more creatively about using technology like Zoom, Teams or WhatsApp to communicate with their teams as the social distancing rules made face to face team meetings impossible.

In fact, we discovered WhatsApp with its end to end secure encryption is now the most used mode of electronic communication. We’ve published some guidance on our website to help employers use it effectively and securely, including advice around passwords, managing notifications and data protection protocols.

A great example is how one of the registered manager networks we support in Yorkshire used WhatsApp.  All of these networks had to meet virtually so the Harrogate and District managers created a WhatsApp group which they say has been brilliant in helping stressed managers access peer led moral support, practical help around issues like PPS and they even used it to create a pen pal scheme so residents in different homes would feel less isolated

As importantly, technology has been deployed to support people who access service often living in lockdown to communicate with their loved ones. So it might be the learning disabled charity who trained the people they work with, and their loved ones, to use tablets so they could communicate on Mother’s Day – offering them a vital window into the outside world.  Brilliantly the team at Sahara House in llford used technology to help the people they work with to celebrate Ramadan and Eid despite being locked down.

Technology has been used to find and induct new recruits to our sector, so Future Directions CIC have learned to become more digital savvy to hold values-based interviews, and offer some online training to new people. Unique Senior Care used Facebook to recruit Emma who after 23 years in the same retail store was able to follow her dream of a care career

Before the pandemic we had around 122,000 job vacancies on any given day, and the sector will need to fill up to 520,000 job roles by 2035, then continuing this smart use of digital tools to recruit people can only help employers find high quality recruits with the right values.

As we start to think about what the sector will look after the pandemic there is no doubt that the sort of imaginative thinking way outside of people’s comfort zones can only help us develop a sustainable model for how social care will be delivered in our communities.


Edel Harris





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