BEGINNING TO WRITE this article reminded me of when I was a director, preparing my speech for conference as incoming President (oh the struggle!) when I said that I thought you could distil our then challenges as directors into just four headlines;

Be obsessed with the frontline

Invest in our staff

Collaborate for consistency

Tell our story better

I think these four challenges still make a lot of sense as an agenda reminding us of the continuity of ambition about what we are trying to achieve, whatever language the latest reforms are couched in - a service I would be happy to use myself or for my nearest and dearest.

My time leading the Social Work Taskforce and Reform Board has underlined for me that in the area of investing in our staff progress has been exceedingly mixed even in the narrower field of social work. Looking at the wider social care workforce and the leadership of the service which will now be my focus, the scale of the task is greater still.   

Your ongoing challenge therefore is enormous and I want ScF/NSA to continue to work really hard to help you with it by making it possible for everyone who works in adult social care to access quality learning and development opportunities throughout their career.

One example of this is the highly practical Social Care Manager’s Handbook, replete with helpful information, created by the National Skills Academy to support its network of registered managers. In my day we were prone to needing to invent things ourselves at some cost to the system – hence my `collaborate for consistency' message. The shared handbook drives up consistency of practice as well as driving down costs.

The handbook is no magic bullet of course but a basic underpinning for a vital group of staff. And very importantly, it is the sort of practical outward-facing tool that all registered managers can use day in, day out.

Another example of such collaborative working was the refreshing of the recruitment and retention strategy which the Department of Health asked Skills for Care – together with the Department of Health’s recruitment and retention group – to deliver.

This group included representatives from the National Skills Academy for Social Care, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Care England, the Care Providers Alliance, Department for Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, National Care Association, Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA), the Royal Association for Deaf People and United Kingdom Homecare Association (UKHCA).

Employers can download the strategy to help them focus on three priorities:

  • Raising the profile of adult social care and the career progression opportunities it offers to attract more people with the right values and skills
  • Encouraging and enabling better recruitment practices
  • Addressing above average turnover rates in the sector.

Easy to use and practical tools are exactly the kind of thing that will build our reputation for helping employers and others, as we all pull together to try to find the right people to fill up to a million new jobs by 2025. We know this surge in demand is around the corner, thanks to data supplied by local authorities and others to the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care, the most comprehensive adult social care workforce data source nationally (which Skills for Care administers) .

Without such facts telling our story better is much harder.

Given the realities of future funding rounds, it is essential that we also work increasingly together to deliver more for the sector. We are stronger together. Key partners like ADASS understand the benefits of simpler, well-signposted offers, not least to communities served by social care workers.

Another key policy area we must drive forward is the integration agenda which will only accelerate post-Care Act implementation. Again Skills for Care and the National Skills Academy have brought together key players from both sectors to create six principles of workforce integration that set out very clearly the changes we need to see across both social care and health. It is this sort of innovative thinking I want to encourage because we are faced with a massive, systemic change that needs a well thought-out strategic response.

As part of my new duties I’m also looking forward to encouraging more employers and workers to sign up to the Social Care Commitment. For too long we have been passive in hoping that the people we serve will see past the negative media stereotypes: those signing up to the commitment are making a public commitment to excellence. But it is more than that: they will also be able access online material to turn the guiding principles of the commitment into practice which typifies the sort of sector-friendly initiatives I want to see us support and drive forward.

My predecessor chairs, Jo Cleary and David Croisdale-Appleby, made the sensible but nevertheless difficult decision to bring those two organisations together, and an excellent start has been made on combining the best of both organisations to achieve more with less. But it is a journey begun but not yet finished. I hope though, that from where you are sitting it is a seamless transition and in no way detracts from our service to you and others.

At the frontline the people who use services don’t much care where services come from. But they do care greatly that the people delivering those vital services are caring and competent. I’m looking forward to leading an organisation that will have a central role in how quality learning and development opportunities can make that simple aspiration a reality.

I look forward to working with you.

Moira Gibb
ADSS President 2000/2001
Chair, Skills for Care/The National Skills Academy