Lottie Galvin at iHASCO highlights how care workers are unvalued and unpaid at a time when the UK’s care sector is in dire need of new recruits
There’s no question that as our population ages, we’re becoming more reliant on care workers than ever before. This is why it is so surprising that the people that are so vital to us and our loved ones are largely undervalued and underpaid. The truth is, recruitment across the UK’s care sector is at crisis point, and there’s going to be only one way to overcome it.
To offer adequate support for the UK’s ageing population, the adult social care sector alone needs to fill another 580,000 jobs by 2035. But, even with government support and encouragement to fill these positions with its ‘Every Day Is Different’ campaign, recruitment is slow-moving and it’s safe to say the care sector is struggling.
Encouraging new-staff to join the profession can be difficult especially when considering the poor reputation connected to the training, care, morale and retention of staff. This isn’t helped by the low salaries given to workers who have to deal with physical and emotional demands. If no action is taken, the effects of the chronic shortage of staff throughout the sector is destined to worsen.
A 2018 study of UK carers working with older people found that the provision of training is patchy and inconsistent, and poor training is linked to poor outcomes for patients. Severe recruitment problems were also identified as contributors to this problem.
Let no one be mistaken, the current situation is worrying for all stakeholders – the people reliant on carers, those who employ the carers, and the carers themselves are all at risk.
For care workers – particularly new ones – a lack of training, motivation and encouragement from their employer (things of which are demonstrations of making someone feel worthy if supplied), will soon drive workers to seek employment elsewhere. But it also makes their jobs dangerous in the meantime.
Care work doesn’t generally require formal qualifications, which is a strong point for recruitment initiatives. But if carers are not trained properly upon employment, many things are put at risk. The risks range from injuries acquired via poor manual handling to mishandling or incorrectly providing medication, to conflict with patients and/or emotional burnout.
Poorly-trained carers are more likely to provide substandard care and they are at risk of overlooking safeguarding issues that should be escalated to the proper authorities as a priority. They are also at a higher risk of failing to manage their own work-related stress and emotional challenges, which can manifest as low-quality interactions with clients and errors at work; yet this profession requires attention to detail in order to keep people safe.
All of this poses a substantial threat to the reputation, revenue and legal compliance of the employing organisation, who are required to meet specified basic standards of care and must dismiss carers who are not ‘fit and proper persons’.
Under employment law, the employer has a duty of care to their staff, including a duty to train them appropriately. Failure to do this can have catastrophic consequences.
Work in the care sector requires a wealth of knowledge and education, and the nature and organisation of care varies so much between providers that each one must ‘start afresh’ with new recruits, whether they have care work experience or not.
Carers have to deal with complex and challenging issues: the practical nature of care, how to deliver care to vulnerable people within a short time period and with limited resources, how to interact with clients who may be frightened or confused, the need for cultural awareness, how to recognise and act on a safeguarding concern… the list goes on and on.
Yet far too few organisations are able to provide this training properly, and that lack of training will be clear to new recruits from the outset.
Disrupting the norm with eLearning
There is a desperate shortage of carers and a pressing need for those who are recruited to be properly trained. However, in the daily reality of care work, time is short and most care environments are overworked and understaffed.
To cope with this, some providers require their new carers to attend training off-site in their own free time which is impractical, but some carers have to pay for their own training – which is often a fast-track to loss of morale and resignations.
So it is time! Time for employers to fundamentally change their approach to carer training. Time to adopt a model that will meet the needs of all parties without interrupting the flow of care in already stretched circumstances. In other words, training should be:
- As free from barriers as possible and accessible to all carers – provided at a convenient location and ideally at a time convenient for the carer
- Interactive and engaging – so carers actually learn (and retain invaluable knowledge)
- Thorough, wide-ranging and yet concise – with credible and expert content that is tailored to the practical requirements of the role
- Well documented – so the new recruit knows their employer is interested in their progress, and that their training record can be relied on for decisions related to further training and career progression
- Updated swiftly and regularly to comply with changes in the law and practice of care
- Available as a ‘refresher’ after their initial training is complete, so carers are reminded of the all-important essentials throughout their career
This is where eLearning can make a very significant contribution. In the UK, many carers are from a demographic that is overwhelmingly ‘digital native’, so learning online will be easy and familiar for many. Online training is easy to access, track and document, and it is therefore flexible and convenient for learners. When provided by a reputable, quality-conscious company, online training is also regularly updated and can assure organisations that they are complying with legislation (which not only helps to keep safe and patients safe, but it will also be helpful at times of inspections, certifications and accreditations).
Simply put, eLearning can give care providers real advantages with their appeal to potential new staff, it can motivate staff to stay once they are recruited, and it helps them meet best practice guidelines and the requirements of current legislation. It is a very simple solution that makes a crucial difference in very challenging circumstances – it makes staff feel valued and supported.
The demand for a sufficient care infrastructure is only going to increase with time, especially as the UK’s population ages. We already know the implications that occur when carer training is neglected, and with our future needs demanding so much more, it isn’t going to be fit for purpose. Like most things nowadays, the future of carer training is undoubtedly going to be online.
But, the time to implement these changes is now, rather than waiting for when it becomes an essential requirement for the care sector. Online training saves time, money and resources that when spent on long training days, could have a detrimental effect on the sector. Making these changes today results in a better tomorrow.