How can councils help build the care workforce of the future?
February 12, 2019
Helping people in need is one of the driving motivations behind those that work in care, yet carers are often left frustrated. Keen to discover more about the attitudes, aspirations and experiences of care workers, we carried out research and found that there will be a deficit of up to 290,000 care workers by 2030.
With rising demand for adult social care, this is creating a burning platform for local authorities. Councils trying to get on top of the issue should ask themselves three critical questions:
Firstly, are we making good use of available technology to allow carers to focus more on the activities that they care about?
There are now an array of technology enabled interventions that are transforming how care can be delivered. Using sensors and smart systems that can detect abnormal activity within a home and alert care workers when needed, can give vulnerable people the real time assistance they need; rather than having to wait for their daily 15 minute visit, potentially in a state of critical injury.
Upfront investment costs can quickly demonstrate their return both in responding swiftly to crises and in identifying patterns of behaviour to be proactively addressed e.g. not leaving the house for days at a time.
Technology can also be used to help social care teams perform more effectively, bringing together remote workers and allowing them to work as a virtual team to deliver better outcomes, as the example of Haringey shows.
While we’ve seen some councils taking an ‘early adopter’ approach to technology, these are often seen in discrete service areas, limiting the scale of benefits. Taking a bolder approach and making the case for a wide scale adoption of technology will reap benefits and free up vital care worker resources.
Secondly, how can we better focus on prevention and manage demand across the system?
There will always be some people who need higher-cost, longer-term specialist interventions, however investing in system-wide prevention and support can be effective for the majority with lower needs.
This could include promoting community circles of support; at the widest level, working with statutory partners such as health to test and roll out models such as social prescribing; and, at the more local level, setting up seed funds and critical friend support for the development of community initiatives, similar to the ‘Supporting Communities’ programme rolled out by the Scottish Community Development Centre.
We've worked with a number of clients who've been looking to address these issues head on and are delivering positive outcomes as a result. For example, in the development of collaborative commissioning models that reward innovative interventions and facilitating the development of ‘whole system’ cultures and priorities.
Finally, how can we reimagine care work so that it meets the need for both staff and customers?
Our research tells us that 61% of those in the care sector joined as they wanted the opportunity to help people. Traditional models of care, segmented into 15 or 30 minute time slots, with minimal focus on outputs, let alone outcomes, are unlikely to fulfil this ambition, thus contributing to the ongoing retention issue.
Reimagining care provision and the role of the care worker is key to staff satisfaction and to delivering better outcomes. In approaches such as the Buurtzorg model developed in the Netherlands, care workers are given more personal autonomy and build bespoke solutions involving the client and their formal and informal networks within their neighbourhood. The success of the approach is based around self-management, continuity, and trusting relationships.
Couple this with enablers such as agile scheduling, allowing care workers to chose the shift patterns that best work for them, and the foundations are there for the development of a career pathway in care with real longevity.
From making the most of innovative technology to embracing a system-wide approach to prevention, the councils that have been most successful in their approach to adult social care are those that have created true collaboration with partners and local care providers and together focused on promoting and incentivising work in the care sector.
Working collaboratively, councils can help to reimagine the possible when it comes to creating the right conditions to build their sustainable care workforce of the future.