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Care Tech case study

Delivering a shared vision of care: Care Tech

How Care Tech’s investment in training helps it to provide a high-quality people-centred approach to care

Around 800 people have passed through the social care provider Care Tech’s apprenticeship programme over the past four years. Many of these have been on the mandatory Children & Young Person (C&YP) qualifications and others on Adult Social Care (ASC) programmes.

Indeed, the organisation, which operates across England, Scotland and Wales, requires a complex range of skillsets and specialisms. It provides services and solutions for young people and adults with physical and mental disabilities and conditions including acquired brain injuries, autism spectrum disorders, psychological and behavioural difficulties and sensory impairment.

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The organisation provides high-quality care in residential and supported living environments and also in areas such as fostering, transition services, community services as well as nursing and intensive care. It takes a strongly people-centred approach, making sure the individual is at the centre of all planning processes and decisions about their lives.

Qualified and committed staff are, therefore, central to its mission and training is designed to help colleagues understand precisely the part they play in upholding the organisation’s principles and philosophy regarding this shared vision of care.

How social care has changed

The care sector knows it has an image problem and has been plagued by misperceptions of low pay, low skill and low aspiration for too long. Nigel Taylor, Group Head of Learning and Development at CareTech, says in reality “only a few providers operate in this way” and many people do not appreciate the changes that have taken place in the sector over recent years.

“The sector has become much more highly technical in terms of the people we deal with and the outcomes we must achieve,” he says. “20 years ago, if you worked in the care sector you would say ‘it’s 10.30 so I’ll make you a cup of coffee’, but now we say, ‘it’s 10.30 so would you like a cup of coffee and how can I support you to make it,’” he says. “This marks the fundamental difference between support and care and giving the person choices about what they want to do.”

The UK’s care sector is also highly complex and diverse. It comprises 20,000-plus separate organisations which represent many different facets of care. The expertise required for elderly day care, for instance, will be vastly different to those needed to look after children with special needs or vulnerable adults in supported living accommodation. “They require different skills, knowledge and behaviours,” says Taylor.

It therefore presents a challenge for any vocational qualifications programme that relies on standards and frameworks. Taylor says the organisation is on a journey implementing the new apprenticeships and it isn’t without challenges but believes ultimately the programme will deliver more highly skilled and technical workforces. “This will lead to better productivity and better productivity in the care sector means consistency of the workforce and continuity of care resulting in being rated good or outstanding,” he says (currently 85 per cent of CareTech’s services are rated good or outstanding).

He also believes the apprenticeship programme will help to retain staff, which is a major contributor to quality in the sector. CareTech’s employee turnover sits at 22 per cent, well below the sector average of 31 per cent. “Employee turnover means constantly changing rotas and the scheduling of any development as well as expensive back-filling with agency staff, let alone the impact on the lives of those who use our services.

Supported to achieve career goals

Workforce development is a major part of CareTech’s employee value proposition and being supported to achieve career goals is one of the reasons given for joining in recent employee engagement surveys.

The majority of CareTech’s apprentices are existing staff and it has to secure commitment from the divisional lead managing director, the service manager and the individual before they join the programme. Under the levy, the 20% off-the-job requirement does have an impact on how it invests in its staff says Taylor: “Having to find and pay for cover can have a major impact on the organisation and needs to be managed carefully.”

To tackle some of the challenges that are unique to its sector, the organisation is in the process of developing a young person’s strategy. “We are looking at on-boarding individuals into an academy style programme that will lead to an apprenticeship through a talent development programme,” says Taylor.

The company has launched an online appraisal system in which it can monitor and identify talent against competences and performance/potential criteria. “Again our issues are not that everyone has management potential, however, they may have potential to be developed,” he says.

CareTech has a significant training programme in place alongside apprenticeships. It takes a blended approach, which includes on-the-job action learning, off-the-job, classroom, e-learning, mobile and distance learning, covering a wide range of subject areas along with leadership and management initiatives. It delivers more than 60,000 learning interventions every year to 5,000 staff and this includes 12 days off-the-job post-probation.

Going forward, Taylor’s ambition regarding apprenticeships is to put in place a set of standards that raise the bar in terms of quality and the technical understanding of the workforce. “There is still some work to be done but I believe having qualifications and apprenticeships is great for our sector,” he says. “It will help to professionalise the sector and make people realise that it is technical as well as rewarding and that there is an opportunity for individuals to develop and grow.”

He adds: “As a sector we are predicted to grow from 1.6 million in the workforce to 2.2 million by 2025. We are seeing massive growth and have got stability, which is more than many sectors have at the moment. Social care has all the components of being able to offer great career progression and using apprenticeships will help us to develop that offering.”