New roles, old skills

Andrea Rowe, chief executive, Skills for CareAndrea Rowe

Skills for Care was commissioned by the Department of Health to undertake a three-year project to identify new roles in social care. This project, which is nearing completion, has revealed some fascinating insights into the way roles are evolving and provides the basis for development of a user-led approach to social care.

Various pilot schemes in many areas of social care have identified new ways of working. These broadly fall into three categories: “hybrid” roles, which draw upon elements of health and other disciplines as well as social care; “ordinary life” roles, which are shifting from institutional to community contexts; and roles which are fulfilled by people who use care services. 

Some pilot schemes have already developed competences for training workers. Also, some new roles in older people’s services can be closely mapped against existing national occupational standards. New roles offering more variety can enhance job satisfaction and improve recruitment and retention. However, the ownership at national level of some hybrid health and social care roles needs clarification. 

The move towards involving people who use care services in training and educational roles allows their life experiences to be drawn on to reduce problems of discrimination and social exclusion. This is leading social care away from a top-down approach to one that listens to and responds to the needs of service users.

The new national occupational standards framework for health and social care, with its infrastructure of skills sets and bolt-on elements, is well-suited to much of the work undertaken by our pilot schemes. It is particularly suited to services with a generic base, but also have a need for some specific knowledge.

The next stage is to develop the existing public engagement forum, involving stakeholders from other professions as well as those who use care services. Recommendations from the green paper have been incorporated to create an interconnected strategy, which is integrated with other Skills for Care activities.

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