Adult Social Care leaders collaborate on vision for a future workforce strategy

Adult social care leaders have been working together to produce a future workforce strategy and a shared vision for the sector, which has now been published.

The leaders from prominent organisations such as the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Care Provider Alliance (CPA), Care and Support Alliance (CSA), Local Government Association (LGA), Skills for Care, Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), came together to agree a set of priorities and a national people plan.

The six underpinning priorities, as set out in the document, are:

  • Staff recognition, value and reward
  • Investment in training, qualification and support
  • Career pathways and development
  • Building and enhancing social justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in the workforce
  • Effective workforce planning across the whole social care workforce
  • Expansion of the workforce in roles which are designed in co-production with people who draw on care and support, and in roles which enable prevention, support the growth of innovative models of support.

Oonagh Smyth, Skills for Care CEO, said: ““We believe that policies to reform adult social care will not be successful unless they address the needs of the workforce who have played such a critical role during the pandemic through a social care people plan and comprehensive workforce planning, underpinned by quality data and an understanding of our workforce now and in the future.”

The 10-page document, entitled ‘Vision for a future workforce strategy’, takes a closer look at each of the six priorities, highlighting the current context they sit in, as well as recommending what’s required to help address the challenges.

In the introduction, ‘The future we want’, the publication’s authors set out what the leaders would like to see, including an embedding of the principles of the Care Act 2014.

It says: “Empowerment of people, Prevention, Proportionality, Protection, Partnership with services offering local solutions to their communities and accountability and transparency.” To achieve this, it continues, “we need to have a sustainable social care workforce for the future, given the increasing demand for support as the population grows and ages, and as care moves closer to home, become more integrated, and new models emerge. This will require a coordinated commitment to the workforce, delivered through a workforce strategy or people plan.”

“Reform for the workforce, valuing people who draw on social care and shifting towards this vision must go hand in hand,” it adds. “This vision shifts us from a simplistic model of “care and support workers” and “people receiving care”. It recognises that people are not “being provided with” a service or even “accessing” one, this means they should be true partners in how they are supported.”

In a section on where the workforce is currently, it states that we “do not have one clear adult social care workforce” but that there are around 1.54m people “working in over 1.67m different job roles”. It estimates that the sector “contributes around £41 billion to the English economy and this is only going to increase”, which means that “effective workforce planning” is required to “ensure we have a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce, with the right values, that is capable of meeting the varied needs of people living in our communities”.

The vision of an Integrated Care System (ICS), it adds, will need a “significant refreshed focus and investment in the social care workforce”, as laid out in its priorities.

Among the challenges noted, key stats were:

  • As per Skills for Care, it is estimated that around 7.8 per cent of roles in adult social care were vacant before the pandemic – approximately 112,000 ‘on any given day’.
  • Current average pay is £8.50 per hour for care workers in England which is, on average, 24p less than those working in sales and retail.
  • Around 24 per cent of the workforce are believed to be on zero-hour contracts.
  • Data from Skills for Care suggests just 45 per cent of care workers have a Level 2 qualification.
  • According to ASC-WDS, although 21 per cent of the adult social care workforce are Black, Asian or minority ethnic, only 15 per cent of registered managers and 17 per cent of senior managers are from those backgrounds.

Among its recommendations across the six sections, ideas include:

  • Promoting a ‘positive image’ of social care, presenting it as ‘fulfilling career’, and improving pay and conditions.
  • Developing a national recognised learning and skills framework.
  • Ensuring access to career-long learning and development, with recognised qualifications.
  • Potentially setting minimum qualifications where appropriate but not at the expense of ‘the focus on values’.
  • Addressing barriers that people from ethnic minorities face in progression to leadership roles, tackling inequalities in the workforce and increasing diversity and inclusivity by creating career opportunities that appeal to all.
  • Implementing clear and flexible career pathways that ‘reflect the diverse and preferred ways people want to be supported’ and enabling specialisation in areas such as autism and dementia.
  • Developing new and hybrid roles.
  • Introducing workforce planning that is underpinned by ‘credible data and intelligence’.
  • Producing projections and assessments of supply and demand.
  • Building a greater understanding of workforce motivations and attitudes through a national survey.
  • Considering the integration and interconnectedness of the health and social care workforce by developing integrated plans with ICSs, and aligning with the NHS People Plan.
  • Enabling the workforce to ‘undertake more integrated, blended roles’ to support people to maintain their independence. 

Clenton Farquharson, MBE, Chair of Think Local Act Personal, said: “Think Local Act Personal welcomes this forward-looking statement which has been influenced by people who draw on social care. Whilst recognising the steps that need to be taken to secure today’s workforce, its ambition for a workforce fully capable of delivering a reformed social care is a welcome and positive step forward. Using TLAP’s Making it Real approach will help ensure that people are supported to have good lives, with the care and support of the future adult social care workforce.’

Kathy Roberts, Chair, Care Provider Alliance, added: “The Care Provider Alliance is continuing to work with policymakers in central and local government and the wider sector to tackle the structural and financial problems that our sector faces in terms of workforce planning. We believe that this sector-led plan, published today, articulates what we need now to ensure a consistent and fair approach to workforce planning across all care and support services.  

“As the COVID pandemic has clearly highlighted, we must encourage our health and care workforce to continue to collaborate and deliver together. No one should get left behind. As a sector with over 1.5 million staff, we are a major employer as well as an essential service. We are calling on all parties including central and local policymakers, commissioners, educators and regulators to work with us to develop and deliver a long-term workforce strategy that will support our staff, and ultimately the people who draw on our services and their families.”

Read the vision in full, here.