What is Adult Social Care?
The King’s Fund defines adult social care as “a wide range of activities to help people who are older or living with disability or physical or mental illness live independently and stay well and safe.” It can include ‘personal care’, such as support for washing, dressing and getting out of bed in the morning, as well as wider support to help people stay active and engaged in their communities.
Social care includes support in people’s own homes (home care or ‘domiciliary care’); support in day centres; care provided by care homes and nursing homes (‘residential care’); ‘reablement’ services to help people regain independence; providing aids and adaptations for people’s homes; providing information and advice; and providing support for family carers” (The King’s Fund, 2019, updated 2021).
A Growing Sector
Adult social care is a sector that is continually growing and changing. Amidst a competitive job market, it is an area where opportunity for employment abounds – with 6.8% of roles in adult social care in England listed as vacant in 2020/21 – this is the equivalent of 105,000 vacancies being advertised on an average day. It is a rewarding and valuable profession, where communication skills, empathy, and emotional intelligence characterise those who make up its workforce.
Despite this, the sector has historically struggled with a relatively low profile and recognition, especially compared to its healthcare counterpart. Eighteen months after the start of the pandemic, we hope that this is beginning to change – and that the growing awareness of the sector and its skilled workforce will begin to encourage young people and adults to become adult care workers. There is always, however, more that needs to be done to facilitate this.
Current Challenges Faced by the Sector
The social care sector has faced various well-documented challenges even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. These are namely issues related to workforce recognition, pay, retention and recruitment. Despite these challenges, we firmly believe that the role of a social care worker is a vital, impactful and incredible one, and continue to push for these more positive elements of a career in social care to be highlighted and better understood.
Adult Social Care Work as a Rewarding Career
Care work is a vocation centred around relationships; knowing and understanding those who you are supporting, giving them time, and making a difference to their lives. Those in the sector can speak to the fact that the provision of care gives the care worker a unique and comprehensive insight into the personal histories, anxieties, and belief systems of those they support, which enable them to provide the best quality care. As one care worker explained: “The best part of a day is when you put a smile on someone’s face. A thank you means the world to me” (The Care Workers’ Charity, 2019).
Working in adult social care is to not only to build meaningful lasting relationships with those drawing on care, but also enabling the individual to live their life with dignity, encouraging independence and providing support that is at all times tailored to their needs and desires. Social care workers help create an environment of physical and emotional safety and support for those drawing on social care, facilitating a feeling of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’- with social care workers demonstrating a depth of emotional intelligence, resilience and empathy.
Working in social care, no day is the same- there is as much variety in each shift you work, as there are in the people you support- the role is rewarding, vibrant and incredibly valuable. We endeavour to continue to encourage young people and adults to join the adult social care sector.
The current recruitment and retention crisis is widely believed to be the worst the sector has faced. With this in mind, it is vital to increase efforts around encouraging young people and adults to join the adult social care sector.
We should introduce compulsory registration for English social care workers, as is already in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This would drastically improve the standing of, and confidence in social care, and would lead more people (both young people, and adult career changers) to consider social care work as a career option- this has already been shown to be the case in Northern Ireland (O’Rourke, M, 2020).
We must see proper reform and investment in adult social care from the English National Government. The recent Social Care Reform statement will leave care workers out of pocket by £1035 p/a (Policy in Practice). The statement’s content must be urgently revisited to avoid this, and investment to support care providers and local authorities to facilitate pay rises, training and quality care must be made – including the provision of a bonus to care workers to recognise dedication during Covid-19 as in other devolved nations.
We must introduce educational campaigns aimed at the general public (outside of social care) to increase awareness about the value that social care brings to the economy (£50.3bn per year to the English economy alone). We should ask those who draw on social care to champion social care as much as they champion the NHS and healthcare sector.
Karolina Gerlich, The Care Workers’ Charity
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
- Camille Oung, The Nuffield Trust: The Funding and Delivery of Adult Social Care in England
- Duncan Brown, Emsi: The Employment Model of Adult Social Care
- Louise Murphy, Policy in Practice: Wages, Universal Credit and Adult Social Care Workers
Part Two: Strategic Reforms to Adult Social Care
- Paul Nowak, TUC: A National Care Forum to Fix Social Care
- Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute: A Long-Term Pay, Employment and Skills Plan for 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
- John Widdowson, Former FE College Principal: Embedding Emotional Support for Learners on Health and Social Care Courses
- Naomi Dixon, Education and Training Foundation: Supporting Post-16 FE Practitioners to Teach Social Care
Part Five: The Role of Post-16 Education and Skills Policies
- Elena Wilson, The Edge Foundation: Valuing Level 3 BTECs for 16-18 Year Olds Studying Health and Social Care
- Julian Gravatt, AoC: What Post-16 FE Can and Cannot do to tackle the Adult Social Care crisis
- Jane Hickie, AELP: Reforming Apprenticeship Funding and Delivery for Adult Social Care
- Gemma Gathercole, CWLEP: Adults Skills, Adult Social Care and Devo-Deals
Part Six: Adult Learning and Adult Social Care
- Susan Pember, HOLEX: The Wider Benefits of Adult Learning for Adult Social Care
- Simon Parkinson, WEA: Adult Learning for Adults in Social Care
- Campaign for Learning: Proposals for reform in England