Professor Jill Manthorpe (pictured) picks out key recent research findings on social care staff
● Agency staff can miss out on training opportunities reducing over all skill levels.
● Social care staff need support to encourage them into more training.
● More thinking is required over the role of support workers.
● Migrant workers will remain in demand in the care sector.
This study of agency workers in adult social care found that many agency staff have no access to training and developmental opportunities. This is despite the fact that many of them are new to social work, or may be working in areas where they are not up to date or experienced.
Examples were given of teams going to training events and leaving agency staff behind. This did not seem good for team-building or developing skills, although managers did require someone to staff the frontline. Some agencies do provide opportunities for staff to attend briefings and training events.
Gospel argues that social care was ripe for regulatory intervention in the early 2000s. This changed independent sector employers’ attitudes to staff training by encouraging them to improve skills, and for employees, in terms of morale, there has been a net positive effect over the long term from this push to more training.
Some social care employees remain worried about training, they still face problems about finding the time, fears of “going back to school”, and some feel that their problems of literacy, language, and numeracy are not taken into account.
Roles and tasks of support workers
This study identified that the evidence base needed for effective workforce planning and development is lacking. The term “support worker” is elastic, but includes people employed or self-employed to foster independence and provide assistance for service users in areas of ordinary life such as personal care, and social participation.
They may take on secondary tasks in respect of advocacy and learning. Job satisfaction and a sense of autonomy are important reasons for working as a support worker but access to training and good pay and conditions is variable.
As personalisation gathers pace, the researchers suggest a need to keep under scrutiny the employer-employee relationship so that the rights of both parties are respected and outcomes achieved.
● International social care workers: Initial outcomes, workforce experiences and future expectations (Hussein, Stevens & Manthorpe)
This cross-cutting study of international or migrant workers in social care and social work finds that demand for international workers is unlikely to decline substantially unless there are huge rises in domestic applications and reductions in staff turnover. International workers may provide good standards of care and professionalism.
However, to maximise the benefits for staff, users and the sector as a whole, the researchers recommend that policy makers consider reforming residence type rules for publicly funded training which restrict the availability of training for non-EU citizens.
They also recommend that employers ask more questions about why staff join the sector, and whether their ambitions are being fully met. This might reveal, for example, that people move to the UK to improve their qualifications or experiences in areas of work where the UK takes a particular lead. Knowledge about which features of social care work are attractive is likely to be useful to those seeking to recruit to specific posts when devising recruitment plans.
Support for international recruits needs to be provided beyond initial induction. The potential importance of human resources staff in managing face to face, teamwork and supervisory relationships in care work emerged in this study, as well as their role in recruitment and appointment, training and inductions. The researchers suggest that HR staff share good practice and what works, to be better equipped to address any racism and discrimination.
Jill Manthorpe is director of the Social Care Workforce Research Initiative, funded by the Department of Health. The initiative was launched in 2007 to develop a better understanding of recruitment and retention across the workforce, and the impact of workforce development strategies on the quality of care for users. The papers mentioned in the review are available from King’s College London
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