Skills, status, pay: why the disparity?
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
“Staff in the UK try their very best: they have the passion and the desire to do a great job. But they also have poor pay, a lack of status and a lack of recognition.”
Why on earth was former children’s commissioner Sir Al Aynsley-Green last month addressing the problem of staffing old people’s services? Of course, he wasn’t. He was speaking about workers in nursery education, but the parallels with elderly care are uncannily close and perhaps instructive.
Sir Al went on the contrast the situation of workers in British nurseries with their counterparts in Scandinavia where most front line staff have degrees in psychology, an understanding of brain development is recognised as central to the task, and jobs are accordingly highly sought after. Again, with only a few changes, his words could be applied to social care in residential and domiciliary settings. Many older people receiving care have dementia, a falling off of brain functioning which is effectively a malign mirror image of early years development. A fuller understanding among staff of how its effects on behaviour, communication skills and lifestyle can be ameliorated or even to a degree arrested would make a major contribution to the quality of life of those with the disease.
Official policy, however, seems to have little concern for people in the late stages of dementia, focusing instead largely on early diagnosis, this despite the fact that few health or care services are available for people at that – relatively uncomplicated – phase in the disease’s progress. Residential and domiciliary care workers by contrast find their tasks regarded as little more than at best kindly minding. As a result neither they nor their managers have the incentive to develop skills in the more active and positive areas of care, which might justify a higher status and correspondingly better financial rewards.
Sadly, the recent report of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Care into social care staffing contributes little to this dilemma, the depressingly bureaucratic tone of its recommendations encapsulated in the title “Elevation, Registration and Standardisation”. There are no immediately practical proposals for driving up social care’s status, this task being simply referred to the bodies it is hoped would emerge from a series of organisational changes – the creation of a new national care council, harmonisation of systems between the UK’s constituent parts, another attempt at workforce registration and so on.
Somehow or other social care has to work out how to break into the cycle of low public esteem, low professional status and low pay. It seems a long shot but perhaps someone should be taking a thoughtful look at Scandinavian child care.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.