Engage: Ensuring equality and diversity in social care recruitment and progression

At Skills for Care promoting and supporting equity and diversity among the social care workforce is crucial not only in the support we provide the sector, but within our own internal activity too.

A core component of our newly-released three-year strategy is supporting culture and diversity to ensure the workforce is treated equally, feels included and valued, and is supported to stay well and pursue their careers in social care.

The importance of this is prevalent at every stage along the journey of people working in care – from the application process, to on-boarding, and ongoing opportunities for learning and progression.

In order to ensure diversity and inclusion in the sector, it’s important that we really understand what these words mean. We define this as:

  • Diversity: Recognising, empowering, and welcoming difference, i.e., employing a diverse team of people who are reflective of the society in which it exists and operates.
  • Inclusion: Making sure every single person can thrive in our environment because individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success. An inclusive culture is one where we celebrate and positively embrace difference. At Skills for Care, our ultimate goal is to cultivate a culture of belonging where we all feel safe, valued, and embraced for what makes us different – and our ‘Equality, diversity and inclusion strategy’ helps us to achieve that.

Supporting the sector

We know that 21% of the social care workforce are people with a diverse background, the workforce is predominantly female at 82%, and the average age of a social care worker is 44.

It’s important that we continue to support care providers to create an inclusive and diverse workforce, and to confidently recruit and retain people who may face barriers to employment or people from different backgrounds.

This is why we support a values-based approach to recruitment, which is key to finding people with the right values to work in social care.

By removing barriers such as education or experience, which some groups may be less likely to have, and instead focusing on finding people who have the right values to work in care regardless of experience or background we can support a fair and inclusive recruitment process. We can then focus on supporting employers with training to ensure that people develop the necessary skills. Crucially, we’ve found that staff recruited for values were better at developing the skills needed for their

role, they perform better and have lower rates of sickness and absence.

So, you can clearly see the benefits of recruiting for values.

An open recruitment policy must also include reviewing relevant aspects of the recruitment process to ensure it attracts and assesses the talents of people from different backgrounds, including marginalised and socially excluded groups. This could mean changing the wording of job adverts, changing where jobs are advertised, and refining how gaps in career or address history are managed.

We provide support for employers on how to reach and recruit people with a disability.

Our ‘Safe and fair recruitment guide’ provides support on employing people with convictions.

Our ‘Seeing potential’ project trialled various methods for recruiting people from under-represented groups across different organisations, and provides feedback and learnings from this experience.

Beyond recruitment, our ‘Confident with difference’ resource can be used by teams to assess and discuss how well their organisation embraces diversity.

There are also projects and resources in place to support people from diverse groups, to continue to progress in their career.

One of these is our ‘Moving up’ programme which is aimed at black, Asian and other leaders from a diverse background who want to take the next step in their learning and development.

We are working with the Department of Health and Social Care to introduce a Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) across the sector, based around the similar policy implemented by the NHS.

This will provide the sector with a system for collecting data and feedback which should prompt organisations to question and to understand why black, Asian and minority ethnic staff often experience poorer treatment or lack opportunities for progression.

The WRES builds in action planning, that supports and underpins how organisation address inequality and to improve the experiences of staff.

Recruitment has long been a challenge for the social care sector. Ensuring that recruitment is open to people from all backgrounds, and fostering a culture of inclusion and diversity which makes everyone feel they belong and have the opportunity to thrive and develop their careers within the sector is vital.

You can find more recruitment support and advice on: Skills for Care’s #RecruitmentReady spotlight.

About the Author

Tricia Pereira is Director of Operations at Skills for Care having joined the organisation in March 2021 from the London Borough of Merton where she was Head of Operations – Adult Social Care. Tricia is a social worker by background, and has also led government taskforces including most recently Co-Chairing the BAME Communities Advisory Group during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Picture (c) Youtube.