We are in the midst of the biggest health crisis that we have seen since 1918, and it has been magnificent to see the way in which the social care staff have risen to the challenge and shown themselves to be incredibly committed professionals. When we finally get back to some semblance of normality, we must make sure that we have a new approach to our dedicated and committed workforce, and we respect and reward them as the skilled professionals that they have shown themselves to be through this crisis.
We must never again talk in terms of care work being an unskilled occupation, what this pandemic has shown is that you are equally as skilled and as professional as the NHS staff.
We have known for a long time that social care transforms lives and what we have seen in this pandemic is that staff are adaptable and able to meet any challenge.
Social care is a very rewarding place to work and the diversity of jobs is truly phenomenal. There are many opportunities in social care that we could offer to people who are coming out of school, college or university, and we also offer roles to those who are changing what they do and transferring their skills from other sectors.
The diversity of the client group within our services is also matched by the need for a diverse workforce. If we are going to deliver person centred care, we have to be responsive to the needs of service users and recognise they come from diverse backgrounds with different experiences and different cultures and needs.
Social care is also fortunate that it provides a 24 hour seven day a week 365 days a year service and this means that we can be flexible in the way in which we develop our work patterns. There are many people who could make a valuable contribution to the care sector, but who are not able to work full time because of caring and other responsibilities. Social care can acknowledge this and can develop a range of flexible roles that will encourage people to join our workforce and make a big commitment to supporting the people who use our services.
As we come out of this pandemic, we must also look at how we train, support, reward and recognise our staff. I want to see a new approach to training and development with core competencies that will enable people to move seamlessly between different parts of the service just as citizens do. We need to see some of the infrastructure that is around the NHS being rolled into social care and we need our colleagues to be able to have clear career pathways and opportunities for professional development.
This will take money and we are going to have to redefine social care in the future, identify the costs based on paying a good salary for a skilled job. We need to raise the profile and status of social care so that it becomes a destination of choice for many people who are looking to make a contribution.
The economic challenges of this pandemic will be seen for years to come and there will be many people who cannot return to their old jobs, but who will have amazing skills that are easily transferred into social care.
I want this pandemic to be a moment when we can redefine our sector and give new opportunities for people to develop first-rate careers in care.
I believe there is all to play for and we must make sure that the voices of social care which have been loud during this crisis continue to be heard.