My colleague, James Fletcher wrote on these pages recently about the difficulties faced by social care provider organisations in terms of recruitment and retention of staff. A shortage of staff is one of the biggest, costliest problems for most of the organisations we work with. Not only is a high turnover of staff expensive to the organisation, it is detrimental to the people supported. For many vulnerable people, consistency and familiar routines are fundamental to good health and well-being. Continually having to build new relationships is stressful and is not conducive to achieving good outcomes.
There are many reasons for this high turnover and almost constant shortage of staff, the most common probably being a perceived low pay rate for a sometimes difficult job which comes with a high level of accountability – but then, it isn’t always the salary that attracts people to a job. Take all the most important professions in society – teaching, nursing, policing and caring – none are renowned for high pay yet all these professions attract large numbers of people. Therefore, it stands to reason that pay is not the most important factor for the people who choose a career in these professions.
A career in social care is also more varied than it used to be. Historically, “care” was mainly provided in residential homes but today, a package of support is as individual as the person – with inclusion and involvement strategies and the introduction of the Self Directed Support (Scotland) Act 2014, support is designed by the individual, for the individual and anything should be possible.
To do a difficult job well, people need to be motivated and dedicated. They also need to feel valued and respected and to be confident and knowledgeable about what they are doing. Opportunities to learn and develop will help to satisfy all these.
Organisations that prioritise learning and development and provide effective supervision, appraisal and performance reviews retain their staff and can bring good results for the people they support.
Too often when times are hard and budgets are squeezed, training is the first casualty. This is completely false economy. Good training doesn’t have to be expensive; training does not always mean a formal course of learning. Effective learning can also be achieved through mentoring, coaching and assessment of practice in the workplace.
The most useful learning is learning from the people we support. They are the best people to teach workers what they need to know to do the job well.
Of course, one good thing to come out of tighter budgets for training is that organisations now monitor for quality and evaluate the training they provide more closely. There is no excuse for poor quality training.
Thanks to the introduction of the Scottish Social Services Council registration requirements, some qualifications and training is now mandatory and this has raised the image of a career in social care and to encourage career progression.
Many employees of organisations supported by ARC Scotland have not undertaken formal qualifications since leaving school and have “worked through the ranks”. They now have to achieve qualifications and demonstrate a commitment to continuing professional development.
This not only of ensures a nationally agreed level of competence and skills are in place, it recognises this and values employees accordingly.
And valued employees stay!
Debbie Gibb, Training Manager, ARC Scotland