Posted: 3 March 2021
20 years, yes 20 years! So much to say about what's happened regarding the social care workforce over the last 20 years. Much that could be said, has been said.
In my final blog for Skills for Care and before I hand over to Tricia Pereira who will take over the Operations Director role, I'd like to highlight three points that are personal to me.
The first point I’d like to make is about humility. At my interview all those years ago I said I wanted to make a difference. I tried as a care assistant, a social worker, a lecturer, a manager in a learning and development team in the NHS and when running a small charity. Having moved away from direct work with people I wanted to make a difference on a much larger scale, a difference for the workforce and therefore a difference for people using social care as a support. I remain humbled and in awe of the dedication, skill and commitment of social care workers and especially as this is the direct opposite to how some view the social care workforce. Many social care workers do great things.
Secondly there is pride. I leave Skills for Care with feelings of pride about what we've achieved over the last 20 years. Much has been on show, on our website; our relationships and our products and services have been accessed and used by many. I've been lucky to meet people who draw on social care for support and have learnt where our work has made a difference. Over the years I've also been lucky to meet large numbers of workers who've gained qualifications or received training that serves to recognise the skilled work that the people undertake. I know Skills for Care has played a part in that process.
Some of our work isn't on show as it's been about giving advice and counsel to civil servants, ministers and others and I'm proud of the engagement, evidence and expertise we've been able to provide to help people make better decisions than they otherwise might have made.
The third point is disappointment that we haven't ‘cracked’ it and we haven't developed from the first workforce strategy that Topss England (soon to become Skills for Care) was asked to develop in 2000!
The social care workforce still isn't at a place where it's consistently valued, recognised and rewarded. Over the last 20 years we've made progress but it's obvious we aren't there yet. In the eyes of many, social care is not yet seen as a career of choice for many. It might have something to do with the fact that ‘social care’ as a concept is vague and often misunderstood, it may be because the ‘sector’ is made up of 18,000 or so separate unconnected organisations without any clear framework, career pathway or organising structure for the workforce, it may be because of a lack of investment, it may be because of the regular turnover of civil servants, ministers and by my count eight Secretaries of State, and it may be because we're all trying to fix a system that was never right in the first place. Would we invent one this way? It may be all of these things and it also may be because we have crucially failed to make the link with the value we place on those who access care and support to help them lead the best lives possible, and the workforce. Tragically the experience of many receiving care and support during Covid as served to cast a spotlight this. This has been highlighted by SocialCareFuture in a blog.
I said I wanted to highlight three points that were personal to me. There is an another. Despite the frustration and the challenging context I have had a good time at Skills for Care. I've been lucky working with great people, including our board, committees and with key organisations. I want to acknowledge however that much of my luck comes from the fact that as a straight white male with no disabilities I've had doors open for me that might not have been opened for many others - I've been heard, my face fitted. It's been easier for me to travel, to eat out alone, to go places without people making negative assumptions and as a white bloke wearing a suit I'm fully conscious that my career progression has been much easier than it might have been. I'm pleased this situation is changing, not fast enough, but it is changing.
I'm not leaving the world of ‘social care’ and so I look forward to looking on to see how the world unfolds.