Unison warns removal of NVQ target will hit adult care training

Improvements in the skills of adult social care staff could be halted by the removal of a “modest” qualifications target for providers, Unison has warned.

The union said scrapping the target for care homes and domiciliary care providers to have 50% of care staff trained to at least NVQ level 2 would lead to cuts in training spending across the sector.

The warning came in Unison’s response to Care Quality Commission draft guidance on how providers should comply with new regulations governing health and social care standards, due to come into force next April.

The regulations, which are still in draft form themselves, would require adult care providers to ensure they had “sufficient numbers of suitably qualified, skilled and experienced” staff.

However, Unison warned that the CQC guidance failed to specify what this meant in practice.

The guidance will replace the existing national minimum standards for older people’s care homes, homes for young adults and domiciliary care, each of which has the 50% NVQ target.

Unison’s national officer for social care, Helga Pile, said the target, though “modest”, was the “one concrete driver” to raise qualification levels in adult social care. In its final State of Social Care report, published in January, the Commission for Social Care Inspection said 66% of care workers had at least an NVQ level 2 qualification in 2007, up from 60% in 2006.

Pile added that CQC inspectors, many of whom are represented by Unison, would face a “difficult job” in assessing whether providers had enough suitably qualified staff without an “objective benchmark”.

“In a sector where there are a lot of providers operating on tight margins, if it’s not spelled out what they have to do the danger is that they won’t do it,” she said.

Similar concerns were raised by the General Social Care Council in its response to the CQC consultation, which closed last week.

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