A voice for social care workers in Wales

The new Academy of Care Practitioners aims to raise the status of undervalued social care professionals, by Mario Kreft
It’s long overdue, but social care workers in Wales now have a voice, an organisation to speak up for them. Unlike nurses and social workers, they did not have a professional body to represent their interests – until now.

The Academy of Care Practitioners is the first body of its kind to be established in the UK, and I am expecting it to inspire a network of similar organisations in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland. It has been set up as a company limited by guarantee with the aim of becoming a charity. Glyndwr University in Wrexham will be its main base.

The aim of the academy is to promote, support and develop care practitioners and raise standards in social care provision – and raise the status of this undervalued profession. People rightly talk about safeguarding service users, vulnerable people who receive a care service but, in my opinion, not enough is considered in terms of safeguarding the social care workers.

The whole social care system in Wales, and indeed the whole NHS system, is predicated on tens of thousands of people getting up early every morning and doing a really difficult job. It’s high time that this group of people had the opportunity to join a professional body that is dedicated to them. By showing respect for people who work in social care you’re also showing respect for the people they care for.

I think most members of the public who either access or are close to family members who access social care know that they’re getting a good service. But I think it’s fair to say that social care is seriously undervalued as a profession and this is a means of raising its status.

Why should social care workers be just about the only group of workers without a professional body to support them, to protect them, and to assist with their personal and professional development? When you are promoting career pathways and personal development, an independent voice and somewhere where social care workers can go for advice and support is very valuable – sometimes they need more than just the employer or the regulator.

What we’re doing in Care Forum Wales, with our partners, is making a body to represent social care workers happen. The aim is for the academy to be independent, democratic and owned by social care workers.

We’re particularly pleased that the new organisation was officially launched this week at the Senedd in Cardiff at a reception hosted by Lesley Griffiths, the minister for health and social services, and Gwenda Thomas, the deputy minister for children and social services. Their presence is a demonstration of the goodwill the academy has generated from all quarters among people who care about the carers.

Mario Kreft chairs the Care Forum Wales