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Half empty or half full? Adult social care 2017

Glass half empty or glass half full? Some reflections on qualifications and training amongst care workers

5 October 2017: In the latest Skills for Care ‘The state of the adult social care sector and workforce in England, 2017’ recently published, the benefits of qualifications for the care workforce are described as:

▪ quality service – qualifications lead to higher skills and competence
▪ safety – training and qualifications provide reassurance about competence and confidence
▪ value for money – qualified workers bring added value and workforce planning
▪ retention – worker receiving structured training and development feel value and supported

A concern for relatives

Setting aside the fact that qualifications, training, learning and development are combined in this analysis, there can be little doubt that there are substantial benefits for the investment in workforce development. However, the findings of Skills for Care must remain a concern for relatives when only 48% of workers have a relevant social care qualification.

Even with the proviso that there may have been under reporting by employers, it means that less than half of care workers have a relevant qualification.

Is this good enough for 21st century provision?

too many untrained, unqualified care workers

The survey found that moving and handling received the highest proportion of training at 74%, with safeguarding adults at 71%. More worryingly are the findings that only 39% of care staff have dementia care training, whereas 47% have undertaken mental capacity training and 52% in handling medication.

These figures suggest that too many untrained, as well as unqualified, care workers are currently employed in the system.

I can’t do justice to a report of 104 pages in a short blog, which is why I have concentrated primarily on training and qualifications. There is a wealth of data in the report which Skills for Care have now produced for 10 years as an online system. This means that important and relevant workforce intelligence is now available on the sector as well as key trends.

A growing workforce

24% on zero hours, high turnover a concern

The report shows a growing workforce in adult social care – up 19% since 2009 – although the rate of increase slowed to 1.5% between 2015 and 2016. There are now 1.58 million people working in adult social care in some 40,400 care locations. 51% are described as working full time and 24% recorded as on zero hours contracts. 83% of the workforce are British and 7% (95,000 workers) are from EU countries.

Another important area of continuing concern in addition to the lack of progress made on qualifications and training is the high rate of turnover and churn experienced by the care sector and the evidence that it isn’t improving. Turnover is estimated by Skills for Care to be an average of 27.8% (32.1% for nursing roles). More encouragingly, however there is a core of workers with eight years of experience in the care sector, with 26% of employers having a turnover rate of less than 10%.

Some key questions to ask

So, what lessons can be drawn from this new data? And what is the relevance to those with relatives receiving care and support? At the very least it is a reminder of key questions that residents and relatives might want to ask when considering a care home:

▪ what qualification(s) does the Home Manager hold?
▪ what proportion of the care staff have a relevant care qualification and what training have they undertaken?
▪ what is the turnover of staff in the previous year?

There may, of course, be other questions prompted by this comprehensive workforce survey. The Relatives & Residents Association (as well as other key charities) produces guidance and resources to encourage a dialogue with care homes. Check these out elsewhere on our website. Alternatively, check with our Helpline if you need to chat through any issues.

Des Kelly OBE, Trustee, R&RA


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