Engage: Planning for 2022 – what we can expect from the year ahead in social care

As the new year gets into full swing, Skills for Care’s CEO Oonagh Smyth looks ahead to what the year holds for people working in social care and discusses the importance of yearly planning alongside maintaining an agile approach.

Christmas already feels like a lifetime ago! The first few weeks of 2022 have been incredibly busy, and that’s certainly true for those working across social care who have been continuing to provide vital support to our communities all through the winter period.

We know that the start of the year can pass by so quickly, and before we know it, we’re into spring.

That’s why where possible trying to carve in some time at the start of the year to plan for the next 12 months can be so useful in setting us on a smoother path for the year ahead – though of course, we always need to anticipate some roadblocks and unexpected twists and turns along the way.

You can’t plan for everything in social care, and that’s been incredibly apparent over the past two years in light of COVID-19 and the continual adaptations required to support people through the pandemic. The impact of the ongoing circulation of the virus will continue through 2022, and we can’t know at this moment in time exactly what that will look like.

There are though some essential processes that we can expect every year, and these are the things that we can plan for at the start of the year. For social care managers this can include staff supervisions, training and development opportunities, meetings, quality assurance, audits and so on. We know that our teams, relationships, and trust are essential for good quality social care and so the more that we can do to support our people the better.

These are all things that need to happen every year but with the demands of providing everyday support and managing unexpected circumstances, these are the processes that can understandably slip through the net.

Being agile means being able to prioritise between planned tasks and reactive needs. This might mean that your planned tasks have to be shifted around every now and then, but they do still remain on your roadmap and don’t get forgotten about.

It’s a difficult balance to strike between being reactive and planning ahead, and I don’t think anyone has mastered it entirely, but the start of a new year is always a good time to take a stab at improving on our approach for the year ahead.

At Skills for Care, we’re helping social care managers and their teams to prepare for the year ahead with our #PrepareToCare22 activity providing information around annual planning, workforce planning, planning for learning and development, and support available for everyone working across social care.

Looking specifically at 2022 we can’t plot out exactly what we can expect from the year, but it’s certainly set to be an important year for social care.

The recently released adult social care white paper, ‘People at the heart of social care’ will have an impact on the people who work across social care and the people who draw on care and support.

Much of the workforce elements in the white paper are measures we and others have been asking for. The commitment to invest in our workforce’s professional development, and in our key leaders like registered managers is something we’ve been talking about for some time, and I am sure will be welcomed by employers and those who work for them.

There’s no doubt that the last couple of years people who work in social care have had really rewarding experiences and built great relationships with the people they support but they have also been through some incredibly tough times. This white paper is the start of recognising that people who work in social care are skilled, compassionate professionals and we look forward to working with the government on what future investment will look like, and to support making the ambitions set out in the white paper a reality.

This month our data has shown a rise in vacancy rates across the sector to above pre-covid rates, and we have heard from employers about the current challenges they’re facing with recruitment and retention. What this data highlights is a chance for the sector to present opportunities for people new to care to start in rewarding and long-term careers where each and every day people can make a genuine difference in other people’s lives.

And while we can’t plan or know everything that we can expect from the year ahead, we can know that everyone working across social care will continue to have a vital impact on our communities, and at Skills for Care we will continue to be adaptable in providing the support that those working in social care most need in light of what this year brings.

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.