James Rycroft, Managing Director at specialist dementia care provider Vida Healthcare, discusses the impact of COVID-19 on the social care sector and the role of employers in recruiting for the workforce of the future.
The COVID-19 crisis has created a global emergency which has caused irreversible changes, both negative and positive.
The social care workforce in particular has experienced significant challenges not only to continue providing effective care, but also to protect themselves and their loved ones from infection.
The impact of COVID-19
One significant positive from the pandemic has been the public becoming more aware of the crucial role of social care workers in providing care to some of our most vulnerable people.
Recent research released earlier in the year found that since the start of the pandemic, almost two thirds (64%) of the public are more aware of the care industry, and 70 percent of people now value social care staff on a par with the NHS workforce.
Thanks to initiatives like ‘clap for carers’, more people are becoming interested in understanding, and taking up roles in the sector. As more people become aware of the rewarding nature of working in social care, it may be that the pandemic has a positive effect on the sector in the long term.
Employers must invest in opportunities for career development, and encourage staff to consider social care as a career, rather than a job. Recruiting and retaining staff who are passionate about caring for society’s vulnerable will also ensure that the workforce is committed to delivering best practice and learning new skills.
Investment in career opportunities will also inspire more people to become interested in a role within the sector, and make current carers feel supported in their ambitions. Employers should show compassion and interest in the personal development of employees to create a positive workplace culture and working environment which retains existing staff and attracts new talent.
This has been particularly important during COVID-19, where increasing pressures have led to many carers feeling unable to cope and unsupported by their employer.
While investment in career development and opportunities is important, employers need to consider the mental health of their carers. A mental health crisis within a care setting can lead to ineffective care delivery, high staff turnover, and a place of work which doesn’t attract new talent.
At Vida Healthcare, we offer our staff resilience and mental health wellbeing sessions on a range of different programmes, including staff inductions and our Aspiring Leaders courses. We also offer follow up sessions, either in small groups or for individuals, on request to provide staff with a confidential and private space to explore their experiences, and give them a voice if they feel they aren’t being heard.
Connectivity with residents and their family members is also crucial. Opportunities to develop personal relationships with residents is important to engender trust and reduce stress, while connectivity with family members enables carers to showcase the crucial work they’re doing. Connections with family members is also likely to drive positive testimonials which will provide carers with a sense of achievement and purpose in what they’re doing.
Supporting staff in action
Vida Healthcare has developed and launched technological initiatives to support staff at work, and provide opportunities for career development.
The Team Talk app was developed to keep staff across the two homes connected, provide insight into developments at board level, and offer updates on the latest headlines relevant to social care and care homes in particular.
We’ve also invested in supporting career progression with the recent investment in the development of our training platform, Vida Academy. Launched in July 2020, the platform provides learning resources and career development tools for staff to deliver best practice and identify new skills.
Although the pandemic has raised numerous issues, the situation has given employers the opportunity to develop a culture of learning, and greater understanding of how staff can be supported at work.
There have also been gains made during the pandemic, including increased awareness of the role of social care staff, and greater adoption of technology. This has made careers within social care more attractive, however we must make the most of these advances and progression mustn’t slow if we are to continue supporting carers at work, and attracting new talent to the sector.
For more information, please visit www.vidahealthcare.co.uk