According to the National Audit Office there are around 1.34m people working in adult social care in the UK. The majority of those will be front line staff. Add to that the countless numbers of informal unpaid carers and you see a staggeringly large number of dedicated people delivering essential support to our society.
The need for unpaid carers to be recognised and supported is highlighted by National Carers Week, which runs from June 10-16. Rightly so. Imagine if someone were able to quantify the economic and social value of the contribution they make. Imagine if these people weren’t willing or able to devote the time, energy and so much of their lives in the way they do.
The formal care workforce deserves similar recognition and support. The work they do is demanding and immensely valuable yet isn’t valued anything like highly enough.
Our ageing population means that the role of the care workforce will become increasingly important and more needs to be done to make the care sector an attractive one to work in. The Everyday is Different campaign is a step in the right direction and the sector as a whole can do much more to make care an attractive career choice.
Support is also needed for the existing care workforce. Much as you might like to you can’t give everyone a massive pay increase overnight (and long-term that might not make much of a difference anyway). What you can do is make sure that care staff have the training and personal support needed to perform their role to the highest standard and develop their career further.
You can also help your team to take better care of their own wellbeing and mental health. We know that care is a challenging environment and can involve dealing with difficult and emotionally upsetting events. People need a supportive environment to continue to give their best without it taking a toll.
The role of care workers needs to be recognised and respected. The service cannot continue to be seen as a ‘Cinderella service’ in the words of Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office. But some of this change needs to come from within. If the sector doesn’t fully respect the value people deliver and support the work they do, how can we expect the rest of society to do so?