Hello PPMA members and friends
In this week’s post, Sarah Messenger, Head of Workforce at the LGA gives a few pointers for organisations to heed, as the provision of adult social care becomes financially and logistically challenging.
“As the recent ADASS budget survey report highlighted, the continuing need to find efficiency savings is beginning to impact on recruitment and retention in adult social care. The LGA has long taken the view that social care funding needs to be put on a stable footing alongside the NHS as part of the drive to integration. All public service HR professionals know only too well though that funding is just part of the story. It is vital to invest in the right ways by taking a properly strategic approach to the social care workforce. This is where the shared experience of councils as employers really comes into its own.
The vast majority of adult social care provision may be commissioned but the role of the commissioner is becoming ever more active. When it comes to helping networks of smaller providers especially, the LGA sees the role of councils as being at the hub of quite closely associated organisations sharing recruitment, development and even reward practices.
Local partners will have to ensure that more people with increasingly complex needs obtain access to care and support. Ensuring that people receive high quality services with dignity and are kept safe can only be achieved by fostering a sustainable social care workforce with the right set of skills. That is a big challenge in itself but becomes even bigger when we acknowledge that it has to include an understanding of what the best terms and conditions for staff providing care and support are. I won’t develop the debate about what is meant by ‘best’ here!!
All organisations running complex public services have developed workforce strategies; these vary in detail but they all amount to finding ways to ensure that they have the right people doing the right jobs at the right time in the right way. In addition, there is lots of national activity which has identified workforce solutions as a priority for success, with broadly similar key priorities that need to be addressed. In this highly complex environment, the LGA has begun working with national partners such as ADASS and Skills for Care to identify a series of initiatives and interventions which will help local partners to work together, taking into account the growing momentum towards devolution. We see the key actions as being related to a number of longstanding strategic issues for people managing public service workforces:
Promotion and targeted recruitment
There are some immediate areas of severe skills shortage in the adult social care and health workforce, for example in social workers, care and support workers and nursing. Investment in the short and long term needs to be put into meeting these needs without an over-reliance on agency provision. We want to enhance recruitment campaigns to celebrate the workforce’s vital contribution and encourage people with the right values and skills to work in care and support.
Skills development, job design and career frameworks
The LGA is encouraging a national conversation on the skills and career options that will ensure a well-trained and flexible workforce. Councils need to be at the hub of networks which ensure that providers can access recruits with the necessary basic skills and then have opportunities to help them develop and pursue their careers. The new health and care certificates provide a foundation for this. Professional development is not only good for individuals personally but we know it will support a cultural shift at the frontline towards prevention and personalisation, with an emphasis on giving staff the skills to help individuals to manage their own care where appropriate.
These new ways of working will require new styles of job such as generic health and care assistants encouraging commissioners and providers to work together to develop new career structures with redesigned jobs. National partners are well-placed to help develop templates and champion innovation to highlight good practice.
Pay and contractual issues
The Care Act and growing public awareness about the work of the care workforce, have placed a brighter spotlight on basic pay and other contractual benefits for the workforce. Sustainable solutions will only be found when we have a clear and agreed understanding of what it costs to deliver quality care.
Similarly there are challenges arising from the sometimes significant differences in pay and conditions between health service and local government employees for which solutions will need to be found. In the short term, it’s important to deal with problems around continuity of service and pensions which can make people think twice about moving.
Not all areas have fully-developed markets in social care jobs at the moment and the national partners are well-placed to help achieve the conditions to get markets started. They can also play a key role in minimising any perverse incentives that draw skilled staff from one geographical area or specialism.
The workforce priorities arising from the integration of health and social care are numerous, complex and hugely important. The best solutions will be devised between partners at local and/or national level and will certainly need the expertise of workforce specialists which means the LGA and PPMA will be at the heart of those solutions.”
Sarah Messenger is Head of Workforce at the LGA