Richard Banks, chair of membership organisation SCA Education, is keen to assist people such as carers who are working in social care on a more informal basis. Anabel Unity Sale reports
Richard Banks is a keen sailor but is keen to distance himself from any myths about his hobby. "I grew up on the River Thames in Woolwich and have sailed since I was a child. People definitely think it is upper class to sail but I'm not party to that."
This love of sailing accidently led Banks into social care and, ultimately, to his new voluntary role as part-time chair of SCA Education, a sister organisation of the Social Care Association, the UK-wide membership body that promotes and supports good practice in social care.
The son of a nurse and a civil servant, at 19 he started work as a ship's chandler (supplying provisions to boats) in 1971. A colleague told him about his childhood in care and Banks accompanied him to the assessment centre in London's East End where his younger sister was still living. The visit changed Banks life.
Residential social worker
"I knew about health things because of my mother's job but I had never met children who were troubled before," he says. After spending more time at the assessment centre with his colleague, Banks decided to leave his job to work there.
He became an assistant house father at the centre and went on to work as a residential social worker until graduating with an applied social studies and teaching qualification in 1978. This was followed by a decade long career in further education before Banks made the leap into social work education.
He was programme head of vocational qualifications at the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work between 1989-1998 - where he introduced the National Vocational Qualification - and UK manager for the Training Organisation for Personal Social Services for two years afterwards. For eight years until May 2008 Banks was Skills for Care's head of workforce development before being made redundant and taking early retirement.
Not one to rest on his laurels - or run away to sea full-time - Banks took up the post of SCA Education's honorary chair in June. Working alongside SCA chief executive Nick Johnson, Banks is eager to transform the way those who work in social care learn. "We seek to improve the way learning services are provided to the sector," he says.
For him one of the key issues is finding out how to better assist those who work in social care informally - mainly carers - with their learning needs.
Banks admits this stance may be challenging for those who work professionally in social care: "Social care is delivered by a range of people, many of whom do not get paid for it. All these people should be regarded as part of the workforce and therefore should have access to appropriate social care knowledge, skills and understanding - it should be their right as carers to learn to be competent and knowledgeable about what they are doing."
SCA Education is considering campaigning on this matter and calling on the government to better fund social care. He says: "One of the ongoing difficulties in improving the social care workforce is getting appropriate funding and learning opportunities on the agenda."
SCA Education is consulting its members - which range from individuals to employers - on the best way for people to learn. By spring 2010 the organisation wants to have developed new approaches to training for the social care workforce, some of which may be web-based.
Another topic Banks wants SCA Education to sink its teeth into is the impact of personalisation on the social care workforce, and how it will influence training. He says the cultural shift required by personalisation will mean those in social care will need to learn how to see and support individual service users "in a whole way and a whole-systems approach".
Addressing how people in social care train and learn is compatible with the emphasis on increasing the professionalisation of social workers, according to Banks. He already has experience of creating social work training as he was involved in the creation of the social work degree.
He adds: "I applaud the work that Skills for Care and the Children's Workforce Development Council have been doing to look at the whole workforce."
➔ The Social Care Association has more information
This article is published in the 6 August 2009 edition of Community Care under the headline "I want to transform how people learn"