Engage: Why valuing the highly-skilled social care workforce is key to creating a fair and just society

I was proud to recently release Skills for Care’s new three-year strategy, that will guide how we support the social care workforce in meeting the needs of our communities now and in the future.

This strategy is something I have been working on since joining Skills for Care at the start of 2020, and I’m delighted that we are now able to share this with colleagues, partners, and the social care workforce.

I feel very hopeful about the direction this new strategy sets out for us as an organisation, and the impact we intend to have on the growing adult social care sector.

Underpinning all our work over the next three years will be our vision of a fair and just society, where people can draw on the advice, care, and support they need to live life to the fullest.

After all, that’s what we all want for ourselves, our friends, our family, and communities – isn’t it? The ability to live a long and fulfilled life in the way that we choose.

And data shows us that the likelihood is many of us are indeed going to live a long life, but it is the support of the social care system and the incredible people working within the sector who can make sure that those extra years are good years.

As the population ages, and as we have more working age adults needing care and support, there will be a growing need for many on social care support, and we will need more and more people working in the sector to ensure everyone in our community who will need care and support has access to it. The way in which people draw on care and support, and their expectations of what this looks like is also changing and will likely continue to change for the foreseeable future.

Our latest research tells us that for the adult social care workforce to grow proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over, the number of adult social care jobs would need to increase by half a million roles by 2035.

This is why it is absolutely vital that we continue to attract more people to work in the social care sector, and that we retain those who already do.

A core element of succeeding in growing the sector to meet future demand is ensuring that our social care sector is valued for the crucial support that they provide to society. We need everyone to appreciate the skills and commitment of the highly-motivated people working in care.

By building public awareness of the importance of the social care workforce to people living in our community we can help people see the sector as the valuable and meaningful career choice which it is. That will attract new talent to the sector as well as supporting retention of existing workers.

Our strategy is made up of four priority areas. These are;

  • increasing workforce capacity to ensure we have the right number of people with the right values working in social care now and in the future;
  • supporting workforce capabilities to ensure staff can meet the current and future needs of our communities;
  • improving the social care sector so that it is well funded and attracts the right people into the workforce, and;
  • 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.

Only in continuing to invest in social care and our workforce, in developing their skills and knowledge to meet our growing and changing needs, and publicly acknowledging the vital work of the sector, can we guarantee a social care system which is equipped to provide every member of our community with the care and support required to live life to the fullest, now and in the future.

And only by ensuring everyone can draw on care and support services that meet their individual needs supported by a well-trained workforce, can we create a society which is fair and just.

About The Author

Oonagh Smyth is CEO of Skills for Care – the workforce development charity for the 1.5 million people who work in adult social care in England and the strategic delivery partner for the Department of Health and Social Care. Prior to starting in Skills for Care in 2020, Oonagh was the Executive Director of Strategy and Influence in Mencap, her role covered three countries and she led governance, strategy, programme delivery and influencing work.

Oonagh (pictured) has held senior roles at the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action and the Northern Ireland Equality Commission, Westminster Equalities Partnership and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. She is a former Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance, which is a cross-sector alliance of 80 social care organisations influencing at the highest government levels.

Picture (c) Skills For Care.