Health secretary Andrew Lansley today announced plans to develop a code of conduct and minimum training standards for adult social care workers in England.
The Department of Health has charged Skills for Care and Skills for Health with leading the development of the code and the standards. The two skills organisations are due to submit recommendations to ministers by September 2012 ahead of the creation of a voluntary register for England’s adult social care workers during 2013.
“Employers must always take responsibility and be accountable for the staff they employ,” said Lansley, who made the announcement at the NHS Employers conference. “But, we recognise that more can be done to support employers in this area and a code of conduct and clear minimum training standards will provide important clarity in this area.”
The code and training standards will focus on communications, confidentiality, nutrition, hydration and basic observations among other topics and will also apply to healthcare support workers.
The plans for a code of conduct were welcomed by residential care provider Care UK but warned that this is only part of the solution. According to Toby Siddall, managing director of residential care at the provider: “Whether or not a member of a care home treats people with dignity is about the leadership, training and recruitment of people with the right personal values – not about a line in a contract.” He added that he hoped the minimum training standards would “address the whole spectrum of roles that healthcare assistants or their equivalents might undertake”.
But Nick Johnson, the chief executive of Social Care Association, questioned the decision to hand the task of developing the code of conduct and training standards to Skills for Health and Skills for Care. “My concern is whether they, as organisations that work with employers not employees, have the necessary reach to do this,” he said. “It always disappoints me that the people who have years of expertise in these areas are not asked to be involved.”
He added that employees needed to be involved and that required more than just consulting unions: “Most people working in social care are not in unions. Most work in private companies and have no representation.”
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