Jane Brightman, Social Care General Manager, The Institute of Health and Social Care Management
While the Covid-19 pandemic has certainly shone a spotlight on social care, it has not always been positive. This is frustrating as the majority of care workers across the country have shown an incredible level of selflessness and commitment. Often putting the wellbeing of people drawing on care and support before their own families.
As a result, one of our sector’s key priorities has to be to change public perceptions of social care, so that frontline staff are seen as equally important as healthcare colleagues.
According to the Institute of Health and Social Care Management’s Public Image of Social Care Survey (March 2021), 86% of respondents stated that care workers didn’t receive the recognition they deserved, rising to 90% from those working in social care.
Better awareness and understanding of our sector will lead to greater levels of appreciation for people working in care, and we can do this by informing the public about the full range of services within social care. Survey respondents were most aware of care homes (97%) and home care (92%) but less clear about other services like Extra Care Housing (54%). While many were confused between the services provided by the care sector and the NHS.
A better-informed public will go a long way to addressing the significant challenges this sector has in terms of staff recognition, recruitment and retention.
On a positive note, the survey’s most compelling finding was that members of the public with just some experience of social care are almost three times more likely to consider working in the sector than those with limited or no knowledge.
This presents a real opportunity to introduce social care as a career option to young people, graduates and those in careers with transferable skills in order to stimulate further recruitment within the sector.
We can achieve this through highlighting the impressive work carried out daily by those working in social care and changing the media narrative.
There are some excellent industry initiatives doing this already such as Sparkle for Social Care (July 2021) and some brand-new initiatives like The Caring view a lively chat show hosted by care workers and designed to share good practice.
While an innovative way for the public to recognise and appreciate care workers is via a new free-to-use thanking platform called TAP (Thank and Praise) which helps boost staff morale.
It’s also essential that we promote social care as a viable and rewarding career with a wide range of fulfilling roles, variety of people and different work settings.
We should follow the lead of great recruitment initiatives like Proud to Care London and the Dare to Care campaign in Lancashire, or Care Home Open Week (28th June – 4th July) which is designed to challenge perceptions about care homes and gives individuals considering a career in the sector a first-hand opportunity to experience working life in a care home.
We also need to communicate with those with limited or no knowledge of social care, such as primary and secondary school pupils as part of the national curriculum, students at college, those returning to work and out of sector professionals. As well as working more closely with Universities Careers teams and developing a Social Care initiative similar to Teach First.
I know a number of leading lights working in social care who have said they wouldn’t have considered a career in social care when they were doing their degree but wouldn’t look back now!
If you want to show pride in our sector and help make it a career of choice, join me and a growing number of us in displaying a green heart on your social media accounts: #GreenHeartforSocialCare💚.
I always welcome discussion around social care and anything we can do together to help further the sector, so if you would like to engage please contact me through the Institute of Health and Social Care Management.