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Revolutionary Black Country initiative has beaten other organizations in TOPSS accolades

A revolutionary Black Country initiative that raises local home-care standards has beaten numerous other nominees in the annual national Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services (TOPSS) accolades. Taking runner-up position in the category for the most innovative learning resource at the prestigious UK-wide awards, the BC3/BC4 project was praised as a role model for the sector. P>

Wolverhampton alone has a requirement for 10,000 domiciliary care hours each week and demand levels are similarly high elsewhere across the Black Country. As the age of the local population increases, the numbers of elderly and vulnerable requiring some type of care service, be that in their own or residential home, is set to increase. Around 400 local care businesses currently exist to meet this demand and employ nearly 10,000 people (2.5 per cent of the local working population). They are regulated by the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) who, through the National Minimum Standards (NMS) lay down specific targets for qualifications of the workforce. The most pressing of these targets is the requirement that 50 per cent of care staff must obtain National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) level 2 by 2005. As a sector comprising many small businesses with tight staffing ratios, releasing essential staff for traditional paper-based training initiatives has been a difficulty employers face in raising care standards.

In recognition of this difficulty the Black Country Learning and Skills Council (local LSC) developed the award-winning BC3/4 training programme in partnership with employers and social services departments. Acknowledging the necessity of accelerating the NVQ process was the catalyst for the revolutionary programme that eschews the time-consuming paper-based learning techniques in favour of 21st century techniques incorporating the latest laptop technology, scanners and digital cameras. Forming a unique partnership with four local social services departments, the local LSC drew on the European Social Fund to pilot the programme which initially saw more than 150 care workers achieving NVQ level 2. So successful has the project been with both employers and trainees that it has now been expanded to a further 160 local care workers.

Jerry Conway, the sector manager for health and social care at the local LSC was delighted to win the award:”Employers involved in the BC3/4 project have been delighted with the speed with which staff have progressed through their training. The use of paper-free portfolios means a reduction in the amount of time trainees have to spend compiling their NVQ evidence, which in turn means less time spend out of the workplace and more time devoted to the development of practical knowledge and skills.”

Helen Wilcox, owner of Woodford Home Care and chair of the employers sub-group at the Black Country Partnership for Care was delighted with the training her employees received: “Our principle resource is our staff. Participation in the BC3/4 programme has not only helped me meet statutory business requirements but, most importantly, it has motivated and enthused my employees to deliver the best service they can.”

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