We all know that social care is at a tipping point with demand outstripping finite resources. However there is a human side behind the stark headlines - and a side that can so often be overlooked and unappreciated beyond the grandstand statements and incomprehensible large numbers.
Firstly, and at the forefront of our thoughts, there is the human cost of reducing services and support. This is increasingly recognised and the use of case studies and personal stories is a powerful way of bringing home the consequences of the very difficult choices Members have to make.
But, there is a second 'human" perspective which is even more susceptible to being overlooked - namely the much valued social care workforce. There are 1.5m people working in the sector, who day-in, day-out provide care and support to around 1.3m people each year. This is the backbone to social care and the place where quality and innovation stems and flourishes.
However there is a growing and significant workforce recruitment and retention challenge facing the sector. Skills for Care have calculated that the workforce will need grow to around 2.2m by 2025 and most of these jobs will require new skills and capabilities to respond to increasing integration of services. But, rather than growing at a rate to meet this predicted level of capacity, the workforce is getting older, 31% leave within 1 year and there is a growing vacancy gap as the sector competes with an expanding retail sector that can offer higher wages. Further, providers are reporting low contract prices affecting their ability to attract and retain staff and there is a specific concern with nursing staff leaving the residential care home sector to work in the NHS, leaving many providers struggling to fill gaps and having to resort to expensive short term agency staff placements.
This is a toxic mix which requires not just a sector but a much broader societal wide response that not only values and rewards the contribution that the social care workforce makes, but also ensures that the resources are there to meet rising demand and expectations to deliver high quality care and support in people’s own homes and communities.
Pivotal to this debate is market and financial sustainability –naturally aligned with workforce sustainability (sustainability is one of ADASS’s key priorities for 2015/16). With the Government proposals to introduce a National Living Wage in April 2016 and providers concerned about fees being paid by councils, there is now an real urgency to address the funding gap facing social care (councils have had to reduce their adult social care budgets by £4.6bn over the last 5 years) and for commissioners and providers to continue to work closely together to maximise scarce resources and set a fair price of care. These are key building blocks to addressing the growing workforce crisis, but like most challenges, they are multi-faceted and require coordinated effort and focus across the ADASS networks.
The ADASS Workforce Development Policy Network is helping to lead this charge, and has over the course of this summer identified 3 key themes to support and encourage a vibrant workforce going forward. These are to support leadership activities in delivering and facilitating cultural workforce change (ranging from front line to system leaders); developing and supporting commissioners in the skills and approaches of workforce sustainability and planning; and finally seeking innovative ways to encouraging people to want to work in social care provision, for example promoting the uptake of the Care Certificate as means to recognise and develop people’s skills and expertise, particularly working within integrated settings.
We all have our part to play, and the ADASS Workforce Development Network is keen to hear your views and ideas about how we can collectively create and support the right workforce conditions to delivering high quality care and support to improve individual health and care outcomes, whilst making the most of scarce resources for mutual benefit across the health and care system.
Phil Porter- Co-chair ADASS Workforce Development Network