The world has changed, not only for care services, but for everyone and one of the things that lockdown has taught us is how important our contact with others is to our wellbeing, and that activities are an essential part of our lives. With the advent of vaccinations, we hope that the coming months will see a return to something more like normal in the care sector, much of that will be about the reinstatement of activities and outings, which are so important to peoples mental health and wellbeing.
Despite the fact that there has not been an opportunity to go out, many care homes have been really creative in making sure that residents have activities that will stimulate them and improve their wellbeing. Many care providers have been very ingenious in giving residents opportunities to engage with family and friends. Of course, because of lockdown many of these activities have had to be more virtual, but now the visiting is starting to happen again there are real opportunities for people to connect physically with the people they love.
As we start to move back to more normal times, I hope we will also remember how important the virtual world has been in keeping people in contact and we need to acknowledge that many people have loved ones who live overseas, who are not able to make regular visits so now that we know how to connect through technology this will be a new way for people to keep in contact with their overseas relatives and friends.
I have been really impressed by the ingenuity of care providers during this unprecedented pandemic and I really liked some of the things that care providers did such as a drive-through music event where relatives could be in their cars but connected with their loved ones through the medium of music. Another care provider developed a virtual cruise, this activity provided residents with fantastic opportunities to explore other parts of the globe and the way in which it was administered meant there was a real feeling that you were on holiday and I know residents and their families really got a lot out of this innovative activity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made us all think differently about our lives and it has really underlined the importance of connections between people. Part of our challenge now is to build back better and stronger and to ensure that care services learn the lessons of this pandemic to ensure that peoples wellbeing is at the very centre of everything that we do. This desire to improve wellbeing should not only be confined to the people who use care services, but we must also ensure that our dedicated and committed colleagues are supported.
The care sector was on the front-line of the recent pandemic and care workers were absolutely magnificent and showed their professionalism and commitment to the people they support. However, this has not been without a great deal of sacrifice on their part, and the trauma of what they have been through will last for a long time. I know that many employees are working hard to support their staff at this difficult time and we must do all we can to return things to much more like normal and acknowledge how to support the wellbeing of our colleagues.
The Queen’s Speech gave us some indication that the Government would be bringing forward proposals for the reform of social care at some point this year. What I hope is that the reform agenda will be very broad and will not only look at the issues around funding, but we need to create a new vision for social care. This new vision must include how we support people who use services, and how we create a new vision for the workforce.
People who work in social care do a very skilled and complex job and we need to have a workforce strategy which sees them as professionals and rewards them and trains them and gives them parity of esteem with colleagues in the NHS. We have heard a lot about integration and this must be applied to the workforce as well as to the organisations in health and care. We need to see the opening up of NHS training monies to the social care sector, and we need a training and competencies framework and some clear career escalators so that social care is a destination of choice when people are thinking about future careers. How we support the wellbeing of our staff will also be central to this vision.
The past few months have been a tough time for the care sector but everyone has proved themselves to be resilient and have been incredible in the way they have responded to a national emergency. With that knowledge in hand, we expect the Government to deliver a vision for social care that will put the needs of both citizens and staff at the centre.