All aboard for the ride

The government has announced new standards for the induction of
social care staff. Anabel Unity Sale finds out how the local
authority, voluntary and private sectors are preparing to meet the

Need a job fast? Fed up with working in pubs, too old for a
paper round? Not sure what you really want to do? Get a short-term
position in social care. After all, looking after the old folk in
the council-run home down the road can’t be that hard. Just a
matter of making sure their food is cut up and the television is
tuned to Crossroads. Right?

Wrong. Tackling this stereotype of working in social care is
high on the government’s agenda. For the first time ever, steps are
being taken to ensure the sector’s new employees will be singing
from the same service provision hymn sheet.

This is where the new nationwide induction standards for social
care staff from the national training organisation TOPSS England
come into play. Sounds great. Just what the sector – where 80 per
cent of staff have no relevant qualifications – needs.

But how will the TOPSS England induction standards meet the
demands of the General Social Care Council (GSCC), which is to be
launched in October, and social care agencies?

TOPSS England chairperson Arthur Keefe sees a direct link
between the GSCC and the new standards. “The GSCC will have a very
keen interest in promoting qualifications and lifelong learning and
for many staff, inductions will be the first step on that

Turning a largely unqualified workforce into a qualified one is
not easy, but Keefe believes the process can be helped along by the
induction standards. He says: “Hopefully people will see them as a
springboard into further qualifications.”

Keefe is keen to stress that the induction standards themselves
will not be a qualification in their own right. “We are intending
that induction leads to foundation and foundation leads to NVQ
level 2,” he says.

The standards are broken down into five key topics: the
principles of care; the organisation and the worker role; the
experience and needs of the service-user group; safety at work; and
the effects of the service setting on service provision. Every
social care employer will be responsible for ensuring that all new
staff complete the induction standards in their first six weeks of
work. It is estimated that it could take at least five days of
intensive study and practical work to cover all the standards.

Added to this is the diversification of service delivery in the
sector, prompted by councils’ commitment to Best Value. As more
local authorities commission out the delivery of social care
services to private agencies, the need for universal induction
training intensifies.

The criticism often levelled at private agencies providing
social care staff is that they recruit people with little, if any,
relevant experience and qualifications.

So will the private sector spend the necessary time and money
adapting their induction programmes to fit TOPSS’s version? Of
course, says Keefe: “These are minimum standards for inductions. It
is not very onerous and much of the cost is already being incurred
by employers. Most employers will want to do things over and above
the minimum standards.”

UK Home Care Association chairperson Bill McClimont is convinced
that the standards will work because small private agencies will
embrace the challenge. “Why am I sure that this is going to work?
Because it has to work. I don’t think that it is acceptable to say
we are not going to take steps to set quality standards at the
level we believe they should be, simply because it may be

But McClimont concedes that not all private agencies share his
confidence about the induction standards and the GSCC. He says:
“There is a lot of concern around this, partly because whenever
people meet change it produces nervousness.”

Taking the bull by the horns, he says, should sort it out: “We
have got to make sure the standards that are introduced are
appropriate and they don’t take the caricature tape-measure
approach that our residential colleagues have complained about for
so many years.”

Sheila Scott, chief executive of the National Care Homes
Association, is equally adamant that the private social care sector
is committed to workforce training and education because it needs
trained social care staff.

Scott says that despite the induction standards being detailed,
she expects them to bed down soon enough. “In any good, responsible
home the work is being done but it is not being done in a
structured manner.”

She says it is the innovation in the standards that is perceived
by the sector as a problem, but says this happens when anything new
is introduced. “When you read the standards they look scary, but it
is only about [covering] the first six weeks of work. When home
owners and managers look at the standards they will realise they
are already doing it.”

The need for the private social care sector to take an active
part in the inductions -Êand in due course the GSCC -Êis
not lost on Owen Davies, Unison’s national officer for social care.
“Our evidence is that the private sector is lagging some way behind
the public sector in terms of induction training. If the
government’s quality strategy is going to be delivered then we have
to ensure the private sector catches up.”

He adds that Unison wants to see all employers in the public and
private sector adequately resourced in order to be able to
introduce the induction standards.

The national approach to induction standards means all councils
will improve, according to Local Government Association adviser on
workforce planning Vic Citarella. “Councils have a good history of
induction programmes but they don’t have a good evaluation [method]
of whether their inductions are working against these

He believes that councils should develop partnerships with
agencies across the relevant sectors to make sure the induction
standards are met. He explains: “They will be a rigorous set of
standards and smaller organisations are not going to be well placed
to do this on their own.”

As chairperson of the impending north west regional training
forum for TOPSS England, Citarella is already looking at ways of
“stretching” its share of the government’s induction funding by
looking at individual learning accounts and European match

Hilary Simon, Association of Directors of Social Services
spokesperson on human resources and training, thinks the induction
standards are vital.

“One of the things that is key to all issues of recruitment and
retention is that people have excellent inductions so they are
clear about what they do and why they do it. This is so that staff
are working confidently in a safe working environment,” she

The ADSS is eager to play a role in making sure the induction
standards lead, via additional training, to more social care staff
being registered with the GSCC. Simon says: “We are keen to assist
with the on-going process where more and more staff can be
registered and included in the GSCC umbrella.”

For Simon the relationship between, and purpose of, the GSCC and
the induction standards are clear: “The standards are relevant for
the whole of the social care workforce and they recognise that the
GSCC has to start somewhere.” And by next spring the rest of the
social care world will know if she is right.

Keeping up standards

Approved by TOPSS England last month the standards, due to go
live in April 2002, will mean all those working in the public and
independent social care sectors understand and adhere to the same
approaches to service provision.

The government has already made £2 million available to
cover the first year of implementation, with the promise of more
funding later. TOPSS England will administer the funding and it
will be distributed through the eight regional training forums
being established by TOPSS England.

Parallel to this is the government’s push to improve the
regulation of the sector through the launch of the England-based
General Social Care Council (GSCC) in October.

The GSCC, along with the Care Council for Wales, the Northern
Ireland Social Care Council and the Scottish Social Services
Council, will ultimately be responsible for registering and
regulating all social care personnel. Initially, the GSCC will deal
with qualified social workers, managers and those working in
residential child care before eventually expanding to cover all

The government and social care professionals hope that these two
significant changes should result in vastly improved standards.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.