Home Workforce Getting the balance right: promoting diversity in social care

Getting the balance right: promoting diversity in social care

by Kirsty Kirsty

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England

Social care is suffering from a significant workforce challenge, and the latest data from Skills for Care identified 165,000 vacancies within the sector. As well as these startling figures, we also need to recognise that if our sector is going to respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse population, we must ensure diversity in the way in which we attract staff. Care work is a destination career for a diverse group of people.

It is important to understand that diversity goes far beyond the usual discussions. To be truly diverse, we must have a comprehensive definition of that concept. Some of the people who are dominant in other sectors are absent within social care, and we must recognise that true diversity is about how we not only reflect the people we support in the make-up of our workforce but also how we reach out to the diversity of talent that exists within local areas.

In social care, we have significant challenges around attracting enough men into our services, and this is an area where we need to focus. I am also mindful that we constantly fish for staff in the same pool as we have always done. We need to think differently and more creatively about how we can reach out to other sectors and sections of the community who could make a very valuable contribution to our services.

One area we could make a real change is engaging people who have had caring responsibilities. These people often have the right qualities and values and understand how to deliver high-quality care. One of the significant challenges is that these people, who could make such an enormous contribution, are often only available for part or half-time work. This leads me to another issue we need to address: the flexibility within our workforce offering. Many people could make an enormous contribution to care, but because they have other responsibilities for families, friends, or in many cases, study, they do not want to be on a full-time contract.  If we started to deliver more flexibility, we could attract people who are currently not active in the workforce. Many retired people want to work and could contribute significantly to care but are put off by the fact that part-time work is often at least 17.5 hours.

Another impediment to engaging retired people is how their tax is calculated, and one of the things the government needs to do is a complete review of the tax and benefit system so that work is now an attractive proposition for people who may be retired or who receive some benefits.

There is also an enormous pool of talented people with disabilities who could be effectively incorporated into our workforce. These people will have a real understanding of care, often because they have received it, and they could transform the care sector, not only in terms of their contribution to delivery but also because of the insights they can bring.

I recently went to a care home where they were employing two people with learning disabilities. These colleagues made a considerable contribution to the life of the care home and had a natural rapport with the residents.  Sadly, all too often, people with disabilities are overlooked, and their disabilities, rather than their abilities and contributions, are seen by prospective employers.

We should also be cognisant that there are many other sectors where people could significantly contribute if we do some skills and transference training. We often see people moving between the hospitality and care sectors, but we need to broaden the approach and think creatively about other sectors and who can make a contribution to care. I have seen some very successful examples of care providers encouraging people who are leaving the Armed Forces to join the care sector, which is another potential source of staff.

All these different sectors could bring vital people into our services and transform the diversity of those who work in care. The 21st century is one that is characterised by diversity, and we must make sure the care sector reflects that.

Image depicts Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England



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