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Managing – to survive and thrive

Mark Topps, Registered Manager at Eastern County Care

Mark Topps, Registered Manager at Eastern County Care, is no stranger to rising to the challenges of social care.  As with colleagues up and down the country, his commitment to staff and residents came to the fore during Covid.  Mark made the difficult decision to leave his young family and move into the care home where he works to keep residents safe.  Here Mark explains how, as a manager, he has supported his organisation not only to survive but thrive.

Working in social care is not just a job as many people outside the industry sometimes perceive. It is a great place for career development, making friends and above all supporting people with their health and wellbeing. Sadly, the role has not been seen as a profession by the government and wider public for many years until the onset of COVID-19.  Suddenly we saw an outpouring of appreciation with people up and down the country, including government officials, clapping for care workers on a weekly basis.  This was the first time in my fifteen years in the sector that I had seen care workers getting the recognition they deserved.

As we enter 2021, we need to build on this momentum and continue to galvanise support to ensure proper recognition and parity of esteem with the NHS.

We urgently need social care reform and further investment into the sector, cascaded down to frontline care services and the workforce. The skill, dedication and knowledge of the frontline must be properly reflected in salaries.

Workforce registration would undoubtedly raise the status of social care as a profession.  I strongly believe that care workers in England should be able to join their counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom. A report from the Department of Health in Northern Ireland, Evaluation of the Roll Out of Registration to the Social Care Workforce in Northern Ireland – Evaluation Report , found that registration leads to an improvement in the quality of care delivery and staff felt more confident within their roles.

Care worker registration would ensure that the industry is employing, dedicated, qualified and skilled staff and not someone who simply wants a job. It would also elevate the status of social care as a profession to the wider public.

During the pandemic social care has seen an increase in employment due to redundancies from other sectors.  These new employees must be equipped with adequate training and skills to deliver high quality care. Creating a culture of motivation and retention in these challenging times will help care services not only to survive but thrive.

As a registered manager, I am passionate about identifying the personal and professional goals of my staff team, so that I may support them to grow and realise their ambitions. I have embedded a culture of support and motivation into our working practice and recognise and reward when goals are achieved. Supporting my staff to accomplish these through a solid career pathway has resulted in excellent retention levels.

There are some people who are happy within their current roles and do not want to progress.  As social care leaders we must acknowledge this, whilst also creating an environment that inspires everyone to engage with their organisation’s values. We must promote a culture of continuous personal development which can adapt to meet the ever changing needs of the individuals we support.

Maintaining a positive attitude is key within care services and the mood of a care home can easily be changed with one negative thought or action. During the pandemic this has been vital in maintaining high staff morale and good mental health.  Throughout these challenging times I have ensured that I have communicated changes effectively but also honestly, to create a service that is motivational and adaptable to change.

For me, supporting staff with their mental health and wellbeing has been a key priority. Checking in with them daily makes staff feel valued, listened to and cared for. At the end of the day, we should be caring for our staff just as we care for those using our services.

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