Recruitment is not just a problem for social care organisations,
as higher education institutions are finding. They have had
difficulty attracting quality teaching staff and there are also
concerns about how up-to-date some staff are on policy and
practice. Added to this is a worrying demographic picture which
indicates that a high proportion of the teaching staff are older
than 50. All of which suggests an increasing need for quality
education in social care.
To address these concerns, the Strategic Learning and Research
Advisory Group (StLaR), chaired jointly by the permanent
secretaries of the Department of Health and Department for
Education and Skills, established a project team to develop a human
resources plan in health and social care. In December 2003, the
team produced an account of the needs, which included:
- Greater awareness of career opportunities in education and
- Improved career pathways with greater flexibility and reward
mechanisms which reflect and protect the philosophy of high-quality
teaching, scholarly activity and the sustainability of the
- Improved workforce intelligence to consider issues such as
gender and age profiles and ethnic diversity.
- Improved strategic partnerships between service organisations
and the education sector.
In 2004 the project team consulted through focus groups,
stakeholder events and a web-based questionnaire. In November it
submitted its final report to the DH and DfES including its 15
recommendations and costed proposals for implementing the plan.
These are now being discussed within the two departments, with
announcements expected soon.
The project team’s vision was “to provide a human resources plan to
develop and sustain a world-class workforce of educators and
researchers for the health, social care and education economies
thus contributing to health improvement, excellent patient/service
user care and safety through education and research”.
The recommendations were grouped into three themes: strategic
drivers and government/national policy; employment practices and
changes of culture; data gathering and associated studies to be
Within the first theme, one recommendation was to immediately
implement a human resources plan for the educator and researcher
workforce in health and social care, developed systematically with
existing HR strategies available for the health, education and
social care spheres.
There was also a recommendation that all students on professional
courses should be taught the basic skills of teaching and research
awareness for service users’ benefit. And employers should have a
duty to support education and research which should be evidenced to
the Commission for Social Care Inspection. The commission has taken
responsibility for implementing this recommendation. The team also
wanted a recruitment and awareness campaign aimed at drawing
practitioners into education and research, driven jointly by DH,
DfES and social care employers.
Under the theme of employment practices and changes of culture,
recommendations included: pay modernisation processes should ensure
that advanced practitioners can fulfil their obligations towards
education and research by requiring their employment contracts to
be explicit about support for teaching and research
Managers should be supported in developing employees’ career
options as educators and researchers in annual reviews and
information-gathering exercises. More work is needed on developing
career pathway exemplars to build on those gathered during the
consultation. This work will be included in the development of an
employers’ guide. Conditions of service in other countries most
likely to prove attractive alternative destinations for our health
and social care academics should be monitored. Structures and
systems in this country should be calibrated accordingly.
On data-gathering, the government should extend the national
training numbers for academics scheme in medicine and dentistry
(where there are specifically funding target numbers) to other
health and social care professions. A labour market intelligence
system to provide continuous accurate data on the employment and
disposition of the research and educator workforce for health and
social care should be developed without delay. And a five-year
planning survey should be undertaken to determine workforce demand
for educators and researchers in health and social care.
An e-consultation between August and September 2004 went to NHS
trusts, social services departments, higher and further education
institutions, funding bodies for education and research, trade
unions, regulatory and professional bodies, voluntary and private
sector employers and service user groups. Consultees were asked to
provide organisational responses to the following:
- Appropriateness of the exemplar career pathways.
- National, local and organisational drivers, barriers, critical
- Resources – human and financial.
- Examples of good practice.
- Characteristics of the teaching and research world in
A detailed analysis of the responses is available on the StLaR
website, including specific responses from social care.
It is evident from the consultation responses that there is strong
support for the strategic direction of the HR plan. There is much
that can be developed at national level working with, for example,
the Commission for Social Care Inspection to develop education
standards for social care organisations which reinforce the
employer responsibilities in the code of conduct. This will assist
in focusing on the education agenda by placing it within the
regulatory framework as it is imperative that education through
teaching and research is recognised and sustained as a core
activity in social care.
There is support for improving research/teaching awareness and
portfolio career development within professional training which can
be achieved by working with the General Social Care Council. This
underpins the philosophy that career development and identification
of potential academics should begin as early as possible. There is
more work to be done at local level to ensure that national
strategic drivers are fit for purpose at the point of delivery and
it is clear from many respondents that they wish to see the project
team engage further with other initiatives that support clinical
academic staff in health and social care.
Some of the costed proposals will need more money but some could be
met by using some existing funding differently. Proposals include
the extension of learning resource centres to 2010 – currently they
are funded until March 2006; developing best practice guidance in
teaching and research in social care; funding to be used for
sabbaticals and practice secondments for teaching staff; and
improving the infrastructure in higher education, further education
and employment structures.
Meanwhile, the DH and DfES have set up a joint implementation group
to look at how to implement the proposals.
Training & Learning
The author has provided questions about this article to guide
discussion in teams. These can be viewed at
www.communitycare.co.uk/prtl and individuals’ learning from the
discussion can be registered on a free, password-protected training
log held on the site. This is a service from Community Care for all
This article looks at the work of the Strategic Learning and
Research Advisory Group’s project team and its aim to raise the
quality and quantity of teaching and research in social care.
The report is not published yet, but it is on the StLaR
Contact the author