Aug 21

Our new strategy is a milestone for Skills for Care

Posted: 4 August 2021

As Skills for Care launches a new three-year strategy our CEO Oonagh Smyth looks at what it means for our organisation and the wider adult social care sector. 

To understand where you are going, you need to understand where you have come from.  

In the process of developing Skills for Care’s new strategy we did a lot of reflection. We looked at the evidence of what works through an in-depth evidence review.  We spoke to people who know us and know social care.  

We had a deep and collaborative process to make sense of what the information was telling us, and we are incredibly grateful to our friends and partners who support us. It was incredibly helpful for me as a new CEO into the organisation and I wanted to share some reflections.  

Social care is changing 

No one reading this will be surprised at that and it might seem too obvious to even say. We know that we are going through a lot of change as a society, and social care is no different. People are living longer (about 12 years longer than in 1948 when the NHS was created) and that is wonderful, I want to live until I am at least 110 thank you very much. But we are not necessarily living healthier 

We have more people, needing more support, and those people have different expectations of what that support should look like. Add to that the impact of technology and the impact of COVID-19, and you can see that the change is significant, some is known, much is not. Skills for Care needs to adapt to those changes as much as everyone else, we need to make sure we are still relevant so that we can support a changing workforce.  

Data and technology 

Thinking a little more about data and technology, if we have learned anything from COVID-19 it is that human relationships are valued and valuable. Technology should be used in social care to make more time for human connection, and to support broader and wider connections.  

We have seen huge changes in the way that care is provided using technology, with Assisted and Assistive Technology. We are going to need more people in the workforce who are comfortable using data, more people who can specialise in facilitating meaningful relationships using technology, more people co-ordinating the multi-disciplinary team by making sense of data so that we can better support people with personalised care and support, and we are going to need more people who can facilitate interactions between artificial intelligence, people drawing on care and support, and their team1.  

We are going to need to think about this as we are thinking about workforce planning in social care so that we are building the workforce we need in the future and showcasing some of the innovative roles in social care that we have for people entering the sector.  

In almost every part of society we are seeing the use of data to change the thinking. At Skills for Care, we have used our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set to allow us to predict things about the social care workforce, who is more likely to leave in their first year of work for example. There is huge potential to build on this and use predictive analysis across social care to identify issues much earlier, so that we can improve services, target our work, and keep learning. But this doesn’t come without having the right capabilities, the right resources, the right information shared across different boundaries.  

Our role at Skills for Care is to support people in the sector to make sure that we are building those capabilities and skills in people working in social care.  

Vision, mission, and values 

Strategies can be a restatement of what you do as an organisation, or they can offer you the opportunity to ask some fundamental questions about why you exist and where you add value. We have chosen to do the latter – we have challenged ourselves on our role, what we do and why. We took the opportunity to reword our vision. This sounds like a paper exercise but was an opportunity to ask ourselves some fundamental questions around why we exist. 

“Our vision is of a fair and just society where people can access the advice, care, and support they need to live lives they want.” 

Our vision is now grounded in making sure that people get the best care and support. We have always existed for people drawing on care and support – our charitable objects make that clear. But having it so clearly expressed in our vision is significant because your vision is your guiding star. And this is a vision that is shared by people working in social care, providers, care workers, registered managers, leaders – we all want to achieve it.  

Adding the focus on fairness and justice is an important one – our research shows that we need to do much, much more in social care to ensure that we have cultures and practices which are inclusive and equal and support our wonderfully diverse workforce. Unfortunately, our colleagues from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds still report that they experience systemic racism,  a lack of development and promotion opportunities. We also have a new strategic priority around equality, diversity and inclusion which recognises how much we must do in social care.  

To achieve this vision, we need the right number of people, at the right place and at the right time, with the right skills, values and behaviours working in social care. Skills for Care’s mission (the bit of the vision that we specifically focus on) is: 

“To support and empower current and future social care leaders, employers and the wider workforce.” 

This is where we can make most difference and where we will focus. It is supported by our organisational values, clarity on our role and our specific priorities. More of that to come in part two of the blog! 


Tomorrow Oonagh looks at how through working with partners Skills for Care will bring our new strategy to life.