The social care workforce is our greatest asset and the skilled professionals who work in social care deliver the support that transforms people’s lives.
The way in which social care is commissioned and funded means that it is very difficult for care providers to pay the wages and salaries that people deserve. Faced with the challenges of recruiting and retaining high quality staff, care providers are increasingly having to look at innovative and creative ways to make social care an attractive profession.
In many ways the challenges of social care can also bring some opportunities. Social care is a 24/7 365 day a week service, and the fact that we must cover the entire year, means that we can offer more flexible working that will enable people to combine a job with a range of other family or caring responsibilities. In the past, we have not been good at reaching out to people who may have a lot to contribute to social care. The skills, knowledge and commitment of many informal and family carers, could be utilised with paid work in the care sector. We have the capacity to be flexible and to enable people to combine family and caring responsibilities with a job in social care. This is one reservoir of skilled and committed people that our sector needs to embrace and encourage into the labour market.
There have also been some fantastic initiatives to encourage more people with disabilities to work in the care sector and again the skills and empathy that people with a disability brings to care work can be so important to the quality of the support they provide to their clients. I recently met with a man who had been badly injured during a tour of duty in the Army and was now in a wheelchair. He was employed by a care provider to do a lot of front of house and customer satisfaction work. His understanding of disability and his empathy with residents meant that he was able to get a really clear view of how services could develop and be improved. In my conversation with him he talked to me about what a fulfilling role he now had and how he really knew he was making a difference. He also said that he had never considered a job in social care, but now he was in one, he could see how rewarding it was and the impact he was able to have on people’s lives.
Social care needs to develop a bank of stories such as these to show people that there are some amazing opportunities to work in our sector. Demographic change and increasing need, means that this will be a career for life, and there are very few that can say that in today’s changing world. As well as providing great employment opportunities, many care providers are excellent employers and have committed to training and development, and to nurturing and supporting people to make careers in care.
I spoke recently to an amazing woman who had a PhD and was managing a large care service. She told me that her employer had identified her potential and given her the skills to develop a brilliant career in care; She was a fantastic example of somebody who had been nurtured by an employer and who was really making a difference.
Social care cannot provide some of the benefits and salaries that employers such as the NHS can offer, but we are a fantastic sector with a range of diverse roles and a huge level of job satisfaction. Let’s get this message out to as many people as possible.