Great Jobs podcast: Episode 3

Social Care – Tackling myths, recruitment challenges and maintaining a bright future

In this episode, we explore the significant – and growing – labour market shortages facing the Social Care sector and the steps the industry is taking to tackle these challenges.

Our host, Kirstie Donnelly MBE, is joined by:


Sarah Gribbin  00:00
We talk about professionalising the role. And we need to demonstrate more that you can have that career in care. We need personal stories. There's so many success stories of people that have either transferred from another another organisation like myself or another sector into it who have just grown, as Lindsay said their life through through care and have had that great career. And once people realise that actually, you know, this is somewhere I can grow and be.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  01:28
Today, I'm joined by Nigel Taylor, Sara Gribbin, Lindsey, Appleby-Flynn, and they will be saying a little bit about their role shortly, but also importantly, their views and insights right from the coalface of exactly what is needed. Over the last few years, the social care sector has been brought very much into the public eye as COVID-19 shone a spotlight on the role of care workers and the wider industry. And whilst the sector has seen a great deal of positive public attention, as we'll all remember, people have become aware of this vital and challenging work, it still faces a significant skills shortage. In fact, over the next five years alone 226,000 new job openings are expected in the sector and skills who cares most recent State of the adult social care workforce report stated that in the last year, there were a staggering 300,000 100 to 500,000 Sorry, on any given day in 2020 to 2022. When we think about the needs of our society and country that really is staggering. We 20% of people currently working in the sector, saying that they actually plan to resign within the next year. According to the research we did in our great jobs report. This shortage is set to become even more acute. Obviously, some steps have been taken to address labour market shortages, such as the government's 300 million Workforce Recruitment and Retention Fund, which operated between October 21 and march 22. And I'm sure we'll hear from our guests later about their thoughts on how effective this fund has been. However, the question still remains, if more needs to be done to make sure our social care sectors Fit for the Future. What should that be? That's why in today's podcast, I want to focus on how we can attract talented people into social care also help improve people's awareness of the opportunities for development and professional growth, a career in social care can offer and what can be done to address the concerns, potential colleagues and staff have about working in the industry. So to do just that. I'm joined today by my guests, and I'd like each of them just to introduce themselves and in a quick soundbite. Tell all of you listeners why they decided to take on a career in social care. So Nigel, let's come to you first.

Nigel Taylor  03:56
Hi, Nigel Taylor. I'm group head of learning development for Care Tech, which is large national employer over 12,000 staff. I'm also chair of the Adult Social Care Trailblazer group, which has its own separate sort of demands. But what got me into social care while I fell into it really more around my experience with education and skills, and have remained in it for close on 20 years now. And I think I've eventually found my niche.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  04:29
Lovely. Thanks, Nigel. We'll come back to that shortly. Sarah, what about you?

Sarah Gribbin  04:33
Hi, everyone. I'm Sarah Gribbin and I'm the Learning and Development Manager at Home Instead, one of the largest domiciliary care providers within the UK and actually globally. So very much my career started back, working within hospitality and retail and I came to a point my father was at that time, needing care, certainly been thrown there for as a family into that whole world of social care. And I was just questioning about, you know, where do I next go? How can I really make a difference to others. And at that time, when we were working as a family and really going through such a change, the role of Hollywood stack came around. And it just spoke to me. And it really felt that this is where I now belonged. And my experience from both within those other industries has really helped me, you know, within this role, though, very much like others. It wasn't my where I was planning but really, really come to life within this and love the fact that every day we can make a difference to others.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  05:34
Brilliant. Thanks, Sarah. And last by no means least, Lindsey, what about you?

Lindsey Appleby-Flynn  05:39
Hi, I'm Lindsey Appleby, Flynn I'm head of development and design at Cera Care, which is another large national provider of care services for people in their own homes. This might sound a little bit cliche, but it wasn't really a choice. For me, I've never worked in any other sector. Nor could I imagine, in a million years working in any other sector, despite the fact that I could probably earn a lot more money doing something similar to what I do today. If if I did, I can remember when I was in primary school, someone asked me what do you want to be when you grow up? And I said, either a nurse or a teacher. And now I'm in learning and development for a care provider. So I've probably got my perfect job. But yeah, for me, I couldn't ever have imagined working in any other sector other than health or caring in some way, shape, or form.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  06:26
Well isn't that brilliant and how great that we've got sort of three individuals who've liked you from different angles have come into the sector and are so clearly contributing and so clearly passionate about what you're doing and very interesting from, from a sort of career transition, or, in your case Sarah, right through Lindsey to having made that decision very early on, as you said, when you were even at school. So let's get straight into this question. So the great jobs research that I've referred to already found that 50% of people said that although 54% of people said that, although they have more respect for social care since COVID-19, it's really raised the profile unfortunate it's taken a pandemic, very tragic pandemic like that to do so. But nonetheless, it has had that impact. But only one in four said they would even consider a career in the sector. So very different, Lindsey to your view there. So what I'd like to really explore with all three of you now is what you believe employers and government can do to do more to attract people to work in care. Sarah let's continue first, not least, you know, your experience there very personal experience of transitioning from hospitality and catering into care, because you had a very personal need to do so. But now the experience that you've obviously gained, what do you think really is at the hub of this problem around attracting more people in

Sarah Gribbin  07:55
For me, it's around, we talk about professionalising the role. We need to demonstrate more that you can have that career in care. We need personal stories, there's so many success stories of people that have either transferred from another another organisation like myself or another sector into it who have just grown, as Lindsay has said their life through through care and have had that great career, we need to move away from language that we see within adverts, no experience necessary, because this, this devalues the role, it needs to be replaced with statements like you need to be willing to learn, you've got to want transferable skills, because it really changes that focus, and makes people realise that actually, you know, this is somewhere I can grow and be as an industry, we also need to start looking to move away from that reliance on zero hour contracts, as it doesn't support that message that this this is a skilled role. We need to make it it makes it hard for people who really want to move into our sector to say, well, I can do that because of this zero hours, you don't see that in any other skilled workforce, we need to be looking at that and challenging that behaviour within social care.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  09:09
Actually. Brilliant point. So thanks very much there. Because, you know, one of the other aspects that came out in our report around great jobs was, you know, people feeling valued, and value beyond reward, although we will come to pay I'm sure as part of this conversation a moment, but value in terms of people, as you say, being able to get training and no, there's a career development and progression. And language. I think you've hit on a brilliant point there. I think language is very, very important. And in this language of sort of talking up the role because it's such a skilled role and it seems such an important role to society. Why do we sort of downgrade it so much in in our language, so I think that's a really good point. And Nigel sort of building on that a little bit, but also another fact that we know that 76% of people working In the care sector are women that came out of skills for care report in 2021? You obviously are a man and I suppose what can be done to encourage more men to work in the sector? And what have you seen already that's maybe working to try and do that.

Nigel Taylor  10:15
I think those those fundamentally quite a lot in terms of re education of both public but also government and government departments around social care. I think part of the problem is a present moment. A lot of people don't see it, as Sarah said, as an unskilled, an occupation for people that don't really want to aspire to much. And it's fundamentally changed over the last 20 years in respect of the way things need to change for technical sort of support of individuals and different way we be support people. So a Dunkin The problem is we're trying to look at a one size fits all we'll try and fix one part when actually we need to look at the whole process. And I agree in a reward and recognition parity in a professionalised in a sector, that's always going to ring the bell in terms of that. But we've got to really establish careers in care and show what that looks like. And that people can move from one part of the sector to another, but also into our health. And we've got a parity with our health colleagues around US based around what we call integrated care services.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  11:38
Well, thanks, Nigel. And I think again, another brilliant point and a great opportunity to, to link now, Lindsey, and that whole progression, that whole showing that career progression and opportunity. And Lindsey, as you told us right up front of this podcast, your own story very briefly, you clearly are a success story in terms of being able to find your way and navigate your way through this sector that you feel so passionately about. And obviously, as you say, you're now in your ideal position as a l&d expert working in the sector you feel so passionate about, but it won't be that easy for everybody will it to to have those progression opportunities? So what's your view on this whole top topic of what we need to do to attract and retain and create the value that's needed? For people to stay want to come into the sector and stay in it?

Lindsey Appleby-Flynn  12:28
Oh, my Wow, what a large topic. And I could talk for hours. But some of the main points picking up on what's already been mentioned is that, you know, parity of esteem with with our health care colleagues, just has never been there. So, you know, do you do you want to work in social care? Or do you want to work in health care whether that be as a healthcare assistant, or as a nurse, or one of the many other professions, that parity of esteem between social care and health care, despite many of the roles being incredibly similar, just isn't there. So there's a real educational piece there, but also a big piece of work for the government, because they have been historically involved in in that whole, you know, social care is a non skill sector. Nigel mentioned earlier that he's, he leads the adult care Trailblazer group, which I also sit on, and the amount of conversations that we've had with people in the department of education and various other departments. And, you know, they talk a lot about well, social care is not worth the funding from a training perspective, because it's an unskilled sector. Yet, we have staff that deal with pupils, gastronomy is that deal with pupils, oxygen tubes and suctioning and, you know, they do lots of very skilled health care tasks that 20 years ago would have only happened in a hospital. And now, not only do they happen in residential homes, they happen in people's own homes as well, because we train our staff to be able to take on those complex tasks. But lots of people don't recognise or understand that. We see you know, it's, I can remember years ago when I was at school that I actually was quite bright at school and certainly wasn't encouraged to go into a profession in social care. But it used to be if you're if you're not that bright at school, haircare that was that was the language and terminology I used to hear when when I was at school and you know, we we don't get many opportunities for people to go and promote things like apprenticeships in schools, which the legislation has been changed around that twice now to, to for schools to have people going in and talking about apprenticeships and work based progression and for many of these sectors, but schools seem very, very reluctant to deal with that either. Even still, but you know, being able to show people that it's a valued profession. It does need to be professionalised, and regulated like health care. In my opinion, the care certificate was supposed to help people today would have a passport and move between health and care. That hasn't worked. I know they're looking at new plans, again, we do tend to have a little bit of a history of reinventing the wheel and not really making a massive amount of change. So, you know, when we have these new things that the government's are going to work on actually listening to people from the sector, and taking onboard our experience and expertise so that we can, we can have systems and processes that work. But really showing that there is there are career progression opportunities from right entry level all the way up to the top within our sector, so that people who who do want to progress in their career, know that this is a valuable sector to come and work in.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  15:44
You're absolutely brilliant boys. I mean, actually, I think many people who would listen to this podcast who obviously aren't in the sector themselves, I mean, you know, this point about health care and social care that and the differences and therefore the way in which social care is treated as that poor relation. And yet if we think how scary that is, as you say, when you think about all the skills and what happened, what social care workers have to administer it, either in care homes or in people's private homes, and if they're not getting the training to that's actually quite scary, right, as well. I mean, you know, sure, everybody does it with the best of intention, but if somebody's not got the right training, you know, that that obviously leads to potentially catastrophic results. But But it's, you know, we think about the ageing population, the number of a number of us who are going to require long term social care, and we're not investing in it. I mean, it just doesn't make sense, does it? Lindsey?

Lindsey Appleby-Flynn  16:35
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  16:47
So, I mean, let's, let's sort of move on now. And really sticking with this theme. And we've talked a little bit about what needs to be done by both government and employers and generally, I suppose society really to really value and try and attract people into the social care sector, but it's in what do we do to retrain retain them? Sorry, and, and what strategies can be really effective in in order to help retain staff because just in the way we heard about your story, Sara about sort of transitioning from hospitality and catering into it, we've also heard lots of stories, especially more recently, because of all the problems we're talking about, of people transitioning out of social care into other careers. So but we obviously want to keep them in Don't be, and so what can can be done to really retain. So perhaps some Lindsey, given your role, and given your passion, and this, maybe just sort of share some pearls of wisdom on the things that can happen to help retain people in the sector.

Lindsey Appleby-Flynn  17:47
Okay, thanks. So, you know, we could we could talk forever in a day around the additional funding that's required, and how if we had more money in the sector, all the amazing things we could do around with reward, recognition, play, etc. But right now, we don't have any of that. It is quite an underfunded sector, in my opinion. So what can we do with with the tools that we have right now. So it's really important that that we have a really robust onboarding and induction process in place, lots of research shows that a high proportion of care staff leave within their first 12 weeks of employment. So that's probably around, they didn't understand what the job entailed in the first place. Because, you know, was that explained in their interview and induction process at the very beginning? Did they feel that they were asked to go out and deliver tasks that they didn't yet feel ready to do. So making sure that that whole onboarding and induction process is is rigorous, and robust, that they get all the training that they need at the very beginning, obviously, that carries on throughout their career, that they have an arm put around them, and they have a mentor and someone that can support them, because it is a challenging role, it is a difficult role. Like you just said, if something goes wrong, it can be catastrophic people's lives could be at risk, that's a lot of responsibility for someone who's new to the role and inexperienced to carry on their shoulders without the right level of support. So therefore, you know, review their performance regularly as well support them to know what they're doing well, and what their what they need help and development in and then give them that development. As I've said before, it's so important to have career progression pathways. We have some great apprenticeships and diplomas and other qualifications within care, literally hundreds of qualifications within CAD that are all really good, valuable ones. So let people see that they can progress from a care worker to a lead adult care worker to a deputy manager to a registered manager and beyond or into health care qualifications as well dependent on the kind of care that you deliver in your workplace so that people can see that it's worthwhile and valued careers to get into that it's not a dead end job that they're not going to be stuck with no progression whatsoever that that turns a lot of people off in in many sectors. We know also that our sector is quite key for burnout. So have effective wellbeing and mental health first aid strategies in place to recognise that and support people before they get to the point of burnout. Because a lot of our staff leave because they're burnt out.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  20:26
Yeah, I think that's a really good point, actually a very good point. So it's almost like What opportunities are there to sort of like, recognise that and take somebody off a particular role, but still still do a valuable role. But while they sort of you say, sort of recover a little bit from what might have been a very trying few months, because of the nature of the, you know, the adults and the patients they've been looking after things are very valuable point. You also had another really interesting point that Lindsey about, you know, there are lots of lots of qualifications, which, which is great, but he's actually is that one of the jobs as an employer really, is to help people understand what are the most relevant qualifications that are going to help you as an individual progress?

Lindsey Appleby-Flynn  21:04
Yes, absolutely. I think, you know, because there are so many short short courses, short certificates and awards and things like that, it can be a little bit confusing to understand what is the right qualification for me, but also, most care staff wouldn't know what was available in actual fact, without somebody really knowledgeable in l&d to point them in the right direction to understand what funding is available to help them understand the funding rules. You know, there's lots of rules around second level twos and second level threes. So is that the right one for you, because it might procure procured you from having funding for another bigger qualification later on down the line. All of those conversations are really, really important as part of their review review in their performance on a regular basis. So having l&d To educate managers to understand all of that and give that support is, is really important. 

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  21:56
Great, thanks Lindsey. So obviously, we've covered really well there some of the strategies to sort of help with that retention. I suppose we can't have this conversation without talking about pay. We talked about it earlier. So Nigel, if I can bring you in now, because pay was ranked as one of the single most important factors that could improve work, potential perception of people who are in the in the sector already, but as well as bringing new people in. And we know that social care have the second lowest pay of the 10 essential job sectors where we identified which is pretty shocking when you think about the port role it's playing. So how much from your perspective does pay actually play in this? And what's your view of what can be done around that this whole issue?

Nigel Taylor  22:50
Well, I don't if anybody's just read the latest at US report, where they're saying that page should be a minimum of 1277 per hour. But actually, it's not sustainable in terms of government funding. I think in some aspects, what we what we're not very good at. And when we talk around parity, in its statements with healthcare, we haven't really followed the same sort of pattern in terms of pay scales and grades. And that's something I think that we need to address. Because if you're going to pay a rate, you need to have somebody either if they are inexperienced, and being developed or if they are experienced, and want to develop even further. And you need to have a varied scale around that. And also a varied scale around the fact of whether people have got more experience than another person. So pain is an important aspect. But I think it needs to be wrapped around an individual sort of journey within social care. Yeah, that makes sense. But that's a standalone sort of issue.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  24:07
No, I think you're absolutely right. If you actually take that approach that you're talking about, which is almost a pay framework that's maybe linked to a career choice, progression framework work along the line, as Lindsay was talking, then you can start to join up the two don't you think is what you're probably suggesting is one way to not only attract but also retain people? And that's really good point. Sarah. Let's bring you in on the same theme. Really? I mean, obviously, you've heard you know, Lindsey views air and Nigel views. What? What's your take?

Sarah Gribbin  24:34
Yeah, I agree with everything that both Nigel and Lindsey have just said. And what we found is there isn't one solution that just makes just solves the problem with retention. What people are leaving for a variety of reasons. We found the access to the fund was really helped our teams look at innovative ways to support retention their teams. I agree with what Lindsey said all around that red box recruitment and onboarding process, being honest about what the role is We need to you know, when we read many of the adverts there's a lack of honesty isn't just going out many times just to have coffee with Doris, you know, there, we need to be honest about what that is so that people will stay with us and having those mentoring schemes to support people as they transition into their new roles. We found that we've had less churn from our care pros who have had some kind of guaranteed hours or salary contracts. But the biggest difference has been around communication, we need to ensure that we're listening to our care professionals, and understanding what their needs are, it can be lonely when they're out there. And as we've moved to a more digital process, this has made our teams feel actually more remote. So we need regular check ins and opportunities for the team to meet and talk and hear their concerns. So that makes them feel important. individuals come into social care, because they have large hearts, and they need that personal touch. And I think what's happened is through the digitalization of what we've done, which is absolutely needed, you know, for for that robustness of the service we deliver. But what we're starting to lose is that personal touch, you know, clear career paths, demonstrating how you can move, and also challenging the language we hear when people are saying, I'm not just a carer, so they believe in themselves more. And as they believe in that with all the other stuff that we're putting in places where both Nigel and Lindsey has spoken, I think it really helps people to understand I have a future here, I have a role. And therefore, you know, if we listening to them, you all that you said we did, we try really hard to bring that to life within our business, and so that they understand they're being heard. And, you know, we are there to support them.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE  26:42
It was brilliant. I mean, it does just come back, right, right to this point about value. And value isn't always just the monetary value. As important as that is in this sector. It is about all those other aspects that you've just so brilliantly illuminated terramin That sort of quote you that sort of people, large people come into the sector, because they've got large hearts, and they need those touch points. I think that's we shouldn't forget that. And as you say, there are some brilliant opportunities because of the pivot to digital, but it's getting the blend, right, isn't it so that we don't lose? You know, we don't lose that big factor as to why people come into the social care sector in the first place. And of course, it couldn't it's just not possible for everything to be done digitally, it will just wouldn't be. Great, well, let's move on now to our sort of last theme really, which is talked about at the top of the podcast, really about the funding that we've seen, almost government have almost been embarrassed into having to put something in, but isn't really working. And then in September 2001, the government announced another 500 million of funding to support the social care workforce to be delivered over the next three years. But I guess what that leaves us with the question, given everything we've been talking about, is this enough to deliver upskilling and rescaling for the sector. And what more do you really think needs to be done? Nigel, let me come to you first.

Nigel Taylor  28:05
Well, if I'm honest, I don't think the government have a clue what to do with the money, even when they're going to allocate it. There's lots of talk around and Lindsay spoken about before the care certificate and and then there is whether we're going to have a knowledge and skills framework and where such things like apprenticeships will sit and where we have core and options and embedded or mandated qualifications within all that. So the the thing we've got to do, we've got to make social care attractive to the public. And that people can see careers. So there's two areas, one, we've got to address our current workforce, we'll make sure that they get recognised and pay and reward and skilled up. But then we've got to attract new people into the sector, especially young people. And again, we fall a little bit in the fact that we don't have a T level care services route. Those talks around technical qualifications that may come into that area. But I think one of the big problems is coming back. I said it earlier, educating government and the public around the real aspects of social care. We're fortunate we cover from children, young people, education all the way through to Adult Social Care and even into clinical services. And people don't really see that that is social care. A lot of people say that social care is is more around looking after elderly people. So So moving forward, we've got to do that. Most definitely bigger, more collaboration, collaboration at present moment. We don't take real opinions from people, especially though As people that we provide services to so especially around co, co development, CO production.

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