The development of the social care workforce was discussed at
this year’s National Social Services Conference, held in
Brighton last month. Several areas were discussed including changes
to career development, education and training.
Liz Kendall, now at the Maternity Alliance but previously at the
Institute of Public Policy Research, said, “changes to workforce
were as equally as important as changes to structure”.
Kendall, one of the authors of the IPPR’s from Welfare to
Wellbeing report, said that one model for the social care workforce
was the NHS. The government’s Agenda for Change framework provides
good career progression and movement across different health roles.
It had also helped the introduction of new roles such as
rehabilitation of older people that combined nursing, therapists
and social and health care assistants. New roles could emerge in
social care such as early years, which would combine child care,
education and nursing.
Owen Davies, Unison’s national officer for social services, said
that while the Department of Health and the Department for
Education and Skills were using Agenda for Change as a model for
pay and conditions, “the lessons were limited as there are 25,000
employers in social care and one employer in the NHS”. He also said
that any discussion of pay and conditions should include
representatives of the social care workforce.
Education and training
Bill McKitterick, director of social services at Bristol and
lead on the ADSS workforce committee, told delegates that one of
the main challenges was to build “a flexible and attractive career
with transferable skills that would attract young people”.
He also said that more thought had to be given to social work
qualifications. There was a danger that as new roles emerged, new
qualifications would be created for them, which might lead to
fragmentation of qualifications. “The youth offending service
already has its own qualification from NVQ level to doctoral level.
There is a need to develop core skills across the social care
sector.” He said that the developing a qualification with core
skills and modules would help with multi-skilling and with the
transfer of skills and jobs between agencies.
Another problem with existing qualifications was the lack of
progression from untrained to NVQ to degree level, said
McKitterick. Some social care staff had a low level of education
and writing skills but were now required to write reports. Bristol
had trained new home assistants as one way to overcome this.
Furthermore, universities were not allowing NVQs to contribute
as credits to the new degree – unlike in other professions such as
engineering. This was blocking the route from NVQ to degree.
Structures were only a means to an end, real improvements needed
the development of a skilled workforce that can deliver changes, he