By Nicki Bones, SweetTree Home Care Services
A new era arrived in the health and social care sector in March with the introduction of the Care Certificate for all new healthcare assistants and social care support workers. With it there comes a drive for better practice, greater consistency and an opportunity to ensure better quality of care.
The certificate was a recommendation of the 2013 Cavendish Review into the quality of care delivered by care assistants across health and social care. It has been introduced to encourage quality and consistency in care provision, and means all new staff across all settings must undergo the same basic training – the idea being that the skills are transferable between employers. Importantly, for the first time explicit competencies have been set in key areas to ensure prescribed standards are in place.
Conceptually the certificate is a really good thing but how it is now implemented is the important next step. While the Care Quality Commission, as part of its inspections, will be looking at how providers have implemented the Care Certificate, it remains a largely self-policing process.
Risk of being watered down
This leaves it open to being watered down and for vast differences to appear in the quality of training provided. For example, at SweetTree it has led to the addition of a whole new team to oversee all areas of the Care Certificate’s implementation. We have informed all existing team members of the certificate and what it means, and integrated the training within the detailed programmes that all new starters complete.
The process itself will be reviewed and refined on an ongoing basis, to ensure it remains the best it can be. And this will be particularly important as we begin to welcome new team members on board who have completed a Care Certificate elsewhere.
At the same time we are seeing adverts appearing from training companies offering to arrange Care Certificates for team members for as little as £20 per person. It is difficult to comprehend how this can result in a certificate that is truly transferable. We’re struggling to see how being handed a book and DVDs to watch can be as effective as a managed and monitored programme.
One solution may be the introduction of a kite-marking scheme, whereby providers have the quality of their training looked at and validated by the CQC or Skills For Care. This would go some way to highlighting any differences and help drive consistency for both carers and providers.
Overall, what we hope is that over the next twelve months all care settings will fully embrace the certificate and what it is aiming to achieve. For it to work the care system has to get fully behind it, with checks and balances in place to ensure implementation matches all the hard work that has gone into the concept. From that foundation, we believe it could lead to tangible improvements and be a positive turning point for the health and social care sectors.
Nicki Bones is director of operations at SweetTree Home Care Services, which employs 500 care workers across the South East.