Sixty Second Interview
With Andrea Rowe, chief executive of Skills for Care
By Maria Ahmed.
A social care forum has been set up by Sir Nigel Crisp, permanent secretary at the Department of Health. What are your hopes for the forum?
I hope it gives an important social care input to top managers in the DH. It is a great step forward and will give agencies in social care a voice and ensure the social care perspective is fully embedded in the government’s thinking. I am confident that the government is serious about wanting to improve its social care expertise.
What does Skills for Care hope to bring to the work of the DH?
We have a good relationship with around 25,000 employers and providers and we will be an important vehicle in getting them to sign up to implementation of vision of the white paper.
What impact will the health and social care white paper have on the relationship between the government and the social care sector?
I hope it will bring together the planning and ethos of social care and health together, and that each sector can learn from the other’s values. While the NHS lags behind the social care sector in service user involvement and direct payments, we will be able to help them on that journey.
What improvements would you suggest to rebuild the DH’s social care knowledge base?
Secondments for DH civil servants to work in the social care sector are already being suggested, but this should be reciprocated so those in the social care sector can take their knowledge to the DH.
Do you think the health and social care white paper can succeed given that some civil servants with health background are working on social care policies with little understanding of the sector?
It is down to all of us in the social care sector to help the government deliver on the white paper, but we will need the necessary time and resources in order to achieve this. There is no use in sitting back and saying it is the fault of the government the white paper doesn’t succeed.
What should be the main issues for options for excellence, the workforce strategy for social care staff recently announced by minister for care services Liam Byrne?
There are major issues around recruitment and retention, with many organisations losing staff within the first six months of recruitment. This is especially prevalent in London and the south east. Conditions and pay must be addressed, along with the quality and quantity of training and education. Byrne must also ensure that quality is not compromised by the drive to get people qualified at a greater speed, as employers don’t want to fast-track their staff and lose key skills. Developing management is also really important as any change of service delivery requires strong leadership. There will also have to be a lot of work increasing user safety and creating public confidence in the workforce.