From education to employment

Adult Learning for Adults in Social Care

Simon Parkinson, CEO and General Secretary, The WEA

The Join-Up with Adult and Community Learning

The world of adult social care is diverse and complex, from older adults to those people living with mental health issues and/or learning disabilities. The range of care settings reflects this; from those settings where intensive support is being given, to residential accommodation and an ordinary house in an ordinary street.

The join-up with adult community learning is an obvious one. If, however, adult community learning is to play a full role in supporting adults in care settings, then it needs to offer the wide range of curriculum and teaching and learning methods for which it is best known.

Economic Value

We can prove to funders, both nationally and regionally that these types of interventions have real economic value as well as human benefits. Demonstrating economic value is increasingly important, as adult community learning compete for funding with the more immediately visible economic value of high-level technical skills, leading to employment – the focus of the current UK Government and many Mayoral Combined Authorities.

Adults with a Care and Support Plan

At the WEA, 81% of all learners tell us that their course improved their wellbeing. For adults with a care and support plan, it is possible to build on this ‘therapeutic’ effect by designing learning interventions that are an integral part of that plan.

Examples of where adult learning might be part of a wider care plan include (i) light exercise especially for people with limited mobility (e.g. yoga, dance); (ii) reminiscence for conditions which affect memory and recall; (iii) art therapy; and (iv) cooking and nutrition courses. Today we call this type of intervention social prescribing, and this approach is welcomed and should be encouraged.

Wherever possible, adults with care needs should access learning in the community as this dispels myths about those who need support and builds cohesion and understanding. The pandemic has hit the social care sector hard and it will take time to rebuild adult learning, particularly for those in residential settings, where rightly the immediate priority is to keep people safe and well. At the WEA we have worked hard to support 28,000 learners on over 6,000 online courses over the last 18 months. We have managed to maintain a community approach to learning, even online.

Adult Learners who are also Adult Carers

We must not forget the needs of those who provide the care. A quarter of all WEA learners self-identify as carers. We know that learning alongside the person they care for is important. It is also the case that classes for the adult being cared for provide valuable respite for the carer.

Care Workers benefiting from Adult Learning

Care professionals should also not be forgotten. I have heard directly from health and social care workers about the massive impact taking a creative writing course had on them, building their resilience and maintaining their mental health and wellbeing ready for work. This is real proof this type of learning is economically valuable, to use the Government’s current language and measure of impact.

Attracting Workers into Social Care

The WEA is also playing a vital role in attracting workers into the social care sector. We are working in many areas on “Step into care” courses. These support adults who are interested in working in social care to understand the first steps to securing employment in the sector.

Healthy and Wise

‘Healthy, Wealthy and Wise’ is the end of a well-known proverb. If we ensure that social and health care join forces with education to support individuals, families and communities to stay healthy and wise, maybe the wealthy part will take care of itself.

Levelling Up

Levelling up is the language of the day. If we are to make this a reality, then we have to start by finding ways of delivering for those that need the greatest support.

Recommendation 1

The Government should continue to support and fund a social prescribing model and network which recognises the economic value that adult community learning provides.

Recommendation 2

The DfE should support a broader view of outcomes within the Adult Education Budget, and facilitate accessing funds from health and social care budgets to support learning for adults with support needs.

Recommendation 3

The DfE should extend the entitlement to an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC), currently limited to those aged up to 25, to all adults with an assessed care and support need.

Simon Parkinson, WEA

Reforming Adult Social Care – Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England

The Campaign for Learning’s report, Reforming Adult Social Care: Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England, is based on seventeen contributions from experts in both the adult social care sector and the post-16 education, skills and employability sectors. 

Three themes are common to most of the authors’ contributions – the scale of the adult social care sector in England, the complexity of policy making for the sector, and the need for greater integration of funding, pay, employment and skills. 

Part One: The Adult Social Care Sector

Part Two: Strategic Reforms to Adult Social Care

Part Three: Recruitment in the Context of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy

  • Becci Newton, Institute for Employment Studies: Improving Pay and Job Quality in Adult Social Care
  • Karolina Gerlich, The Care Workers’ Charity: Encouraging Young People and Adults to become Adult Care Workers
  • Chris Goulden, Youth Futures Foundation: A Career in Adult Social Care: The Views of Young People
  • Andrew Morton, ERSA: Targeting Active Labour Market Policies to Fill Adult Social Care Vacancies

Part Four: The Delivery and Design of Social Care Qualifications

Part Five: The Role of Post-16 Education and Skills Policies

Part Six: Adult Learning and Adult Social Care

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