Code of Conduct and National Minimum Training Standards published – plus the care and support workforce ‘at-a-glance’

As part of today’s Government response to the Francis report, a Code of Conduct and Minimum Training Standards for adult social care and healthcare support workers were published. The Department of Health committed to developing and publishing these documents as part of its wide-ranging commitments set out in last summer’s ‘Caring for our future’ White Paper.

Read on for a summary view of the Department’s vision for the care and support workforce, planned developments and the case for change.

The vision for adult care and support
As our population gets older we need to prepare ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead. By working hard to meet those challenges, we can help more people to live a better quality of life, whether they are living with a disability, ill health or entering their later years.

The Government set out its vision of the development of high quality care services in the White Paper, Caring for our future: Reforming care and support, in July 2012. It set out clearly what – with the support of care and support organisations, charities, carers and the public – care and support system we want to achieve. One where:

  • The health, wellbeing and rights of individuals are at the heart of our ambition for care and support, with timely and effective interventions to help ensure people’s independence and good quality of life for longer. 
  • People are treated with compassion and respect, and are safe from abuse and neglect; everybody has a responsibility to make this happen, to communicate effectively and to highlight any instances of poor care. 
  • Everyone has real choice and control over the care and support they need to achieve their goals, to live a fulfilling life, and to be connected with society. 
  • We strengthen our communities – their skills, their resources and their networks – to help people to live well, to feel connected and to play as active a role in their communities as they wish. 
  • Carers are recognised for their contribution to society as vital partners in care, and are supported to reach their full potential and lead the lives they want. 
  • We continue to develop a caring, skilled and much-valued workforce, which delivers quality care and support in partnership with individuals, families and communities.

Everything we want to achieve will depend on the competence, commitment and sensitivity of the care and support workforce. The relationships that are formed with people needing care are essential to delivering good care. 

We need to attract skilled people to deliver high quality care in the future. We need to provide training and information so that the workforce can adapt and work flexibly as technology and ways of working develop. Integrating care and support services with health and others, such as housing and leisure, is a priority. For a truly personalised service, there needs to be a cultural change and people need to work across their own sector boundaries to deliver services that join up around, and meet the needs, of individual people. 

People have the right to choose and control the services they receive, including people who need support at the end of their lives, and the sector as a whole has a role to play in keeping people safe from harm, and in providing information, preventative services and support in order to prevent or delay the onset of serious care needs, rather than only intervening when people reach crisis point. 

Good leaders are central to delivering these changes, and professionals across the care and support sector have a crucial role to play in reforming the whole care and support system. 

The case for change
Within the next 20 years, the number of people aged over 85 is expected to double, and advances in healthcare mean that younger people with disabilities and long-term health conditions are living longer. Longer life expectancy is a good thing, but it does mean that care services will become an important part of more people’s lives. When friends and family need support in life we want to know they will be treated with compassion and respect by people who have the right skills to provide quality care. There is no place for second-rate care in a first world country. We must be confident that those we love will be treated well, and that their dignity will be upheld.

The increase in people needing care means that over time the number of people working in care and support will need to grow. Recruitment and retention of staff remain a challenge, and for many it is not seen as a rewarding or attractive career choice. We want to create and support professional and public pride and trust in the care and support system. The workforce has a role to play in improving the quality of care that’s delivered, and our challenge is to ensure the workforce has the right number of people, with the right skills, knowledge and behaviours, with which to do that.

How will we achieve the vision?
The Government cannot make any of this happen by itself. We are working closely with our partners in the care and support sector to implement a comprehensive package of reforms, which together will help to achieve a system of high quality, sustainable care and support services for the country.

We will continue to work with Skills for Care to attract more people to work in care and support, to ensure there are enough highly skilled people to deliver the volume of care we need in the future. We will boost capacity by doubling the number of apprentices to 100,000 by 2017 and expanding the current care ambassador scheme to promote a positive image of the sector. People will also soon be able to find information about working in care and support, and about available paid and voluntary opportunities, via a new website.

Better skills and training are an important part of raising standards and of improving capability. We have worked with Skills for Care and Skills for Health to produce a Code of Conduct and Minimum Training Standards for adult social care workers and healthcare support workers. These were published on 26 March, and have the dignity and respect of individuals at their heart. They build on the skills, values and attitudes-based standards and qualifications available for the sector. The code of conduct and training standards support the introduction of assured voluntary registration of adult social care workers and healthcare support workers, which will further contribute to improving standards. The Care Quality Commission will also play an important role in ensuring that providers use appropriately trained and qualified workers, as part of enforcing quality standards.

We are also working with Skills for Care to develop a Care and Support Sector Compact. This will set a framework for agreement between employees and employers to improve skills, competencies and behaviours. Personal assistants (PAs) and their employers will, for the first time, receive direct support, learning and training through the Workforce Development Fund. This will help to improve recruitment and retention of staff, and consequently, the quality of care and support they deliver. We will also explore the development of a PA index to facilitate a clear and transparent comparison of PA services available. It will encourage PAs to improve their skills and improve understanding of the roles that PAs can play.

Perhaps more than anything else, transforming the care and support sector needs strong, determined leaders at every level, from strategic leaders to practice leaders. It needs to develop new talent and the leaders of tomorrow, capable of inspiring the workforce  to deliver high-quality care. We are working with the National Skills Academy Social Care (NSASC) to set up a new Leadership Forum in 2013 to lead this transformation. Its first meeting will take place shortly. One important area of focus for the forum will be frontline practice managers who have a role in influencing the quality of people’s experiences of care and support. Registered managers also have a vital frontline responsibility and it is imperative that they are supported and don’t feel isolated. In recognition of this, the Department of Health recently worked closely with the NSASC to launch a programme of support for registered managers

The Department is continuing to work with the NSASC to implement strong collaborative leadership through the Social Care Leadership Qualities Framework. This work includes self-assessments and coaching, and will contribute to services becoming better organised and joined up around the needs of individuals.

We will also continue to work with the Department for Education, The College of Social Work and others to improve education for social workers and to promote continuing professional development. This work will include improving the standard of the qualifying education for social workers. Two Chief Social Workers will be appointed in 2013. These are new roles, with one focusing on children and family social work and the other on adult social work. They will work together to influence social work reform, to support and challenge the profession to ensure that children and adults in vulnerable situations get the best possible help from social workers, and to provide expert advice to ministers on a range of social work issues. The Chief Social Worker for Adult Services will focus on improving the skills of the social care workforce, and on developing a clear definition of social work within adult services. They will also help to create a consistent understanding of and purpose for the profession. Within local authorities, Principal Social Workers will ensure that professional views, knowledge and frontline experience are included in strategic discussion and decision making. This will be supported by relevant professional development and caseloads, and by making strategic decisions on how social workers are deployed.


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