Beyond measurable outputs: What matters in social work practice with older people?

Valerie D'AstousVal D’Astous is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Gerontology, King’s College London. (969 words)

As I walked past a small group of men for the second time, in search of the location, a cheery, ‘Can we help you luv?’ was offered. Paper in hand with the address, I knew I was close, but gladly accepted their offer. Two gentlemen ended up walking me around the corner to the place I was seeking, the Burrell Street Sexual Health Clinic. ‘Hope all goes well for you,’ one gentleman wished me, as I thanked them and said goodbye. I laughed as I entered the building, the site for the Making Research Count Conference: Rethinking Social Work Practice with Older People: Threats and Opportunities. I knew I was in for a great day! Continue reading

Men? Have your circumstances changed?

Valerie LipmanDr Valerie Lipman is Honorary Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit. (553 words)

We don’t see much about the lives of older men in the field of social care. The focus tends to be on older women, partly because women’s life expectancy is longer and perhaps, because in the care field, women are more visible in the traditional care settings, such as day centres and care homes. Have your circumstances changed?’, a triptych of duets between an ageing man and a boy of about 10-12 years of age, stages the daily routine of a single older man.

The three short pieces, about 15 minutes each, are set in sequence in a kitchen, living room and bathroom, showing a different older man managing life on his own. The performance takes place in the windows of a former furniture shop in a former shopping mall in Islington, north London. There’s no dialogue but just a series of noises of daily living. In the kitchen the man accidentally tips his rice crispies all over the floor, the sink gurgles, he thumps his knife into an onion, and butter splutters in a frying pan on the cooker all against the background of Radio 2. In the living room the TV blares out quiz shows, football and the Generation Game. And in the bathroom we hear the toilet flush, medicines fall out of the cabinet and imagine the scraping of shaving and the sizzing of false teeth in the glass. Continue reading

New models of social care

Dave MartinThe Centre for Policy on Ageing (CPA) and Co-operatives UK arranged a roundtable event on 18 February 2015 to foster greater understanding and consider the development of social care co-operatives. Dave Martin (an associate with CPA) reports from the gathering. (753 words)

‘Hardly a month goes by without another scare story about aspects of our health and care services. Is there a democratically accountable ownership model for health and care services that could make a difference? Could the active membership and co-operative ownership of workers, service users, volunteers and family members rebuild public trust in services and put an end to cruelty and neglect through a socially inclusive solution where the system of care is owned by the recipients?

In a growing number of countries, from Europe to Canada and Japan, diverse co-operative models of social care are expanding. We believe these approaches can be further developed in the UK and that they would benefit the lives of vulnerable people by empowering them directly in decisions that affect their care.’—Pat Conaty (Research Associate, Co-operatives UK) in The Guardian, 4 July 2014.

The roundtable event was attended by a diverse group of people, described as three circles of interest—first, people who had been involved with the co-operative movement for some time, secondly people seeking to develop (or convert to) a co-operative model for the delivery of care, looking for support and assistance, and thirdly policymakers and commissioners sniffing around—is this the way for the future? Continue reading

Just do it!

John Burton John Burton has worked in social care since 1965 as a practitioner at all levels. His book, Leading Good Care, is just out from Jessica Kingsley Publishers. (1,342 words)

In Leading Good Care, I set out and recommend a positive and hopeful vision of social care. My subtitle—the task, heart and art of managing social care—is both realistic and idealistic. The task requires serious, disciplined, hands-on, and hard work. The heart signifies that this work is emotional and personal, and that care is a human relationship. And the art of managing care engages your skills, your imagination, your culture and creativity. Continue reading

On compassionate care

Dr Joan RapaportDr Joan Rapaport reports on the seventh Annual Joint Conference of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, Making Research Count, and Age UK London (with support from the British Society of Gerontology), which took place at King’s last week. (2,508 words)

In her welcoming introduction, Professor Jill Manthorpe (Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London) said the topic ‘Compassionate Care’ had been chosen to explore what we mean by compassion, where it might be needed in older people’s care, its place within the hierarchy of priorities and whether it concerns individuals or wider social relationships. She said the purpose of the conference was to find out:

  • Where is the passion in compassion?
  • Should we all be compassionate all the time?
  • Do all older people want compassion?

Continue reading

View from the Frozen North

Last July we heard from the Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network (What can the city banks learn from social care?). At their most recent meeting, Network members discussed issues associated with providing care closer to home. (732 words)

Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, braved icy conditions to attend the Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network on Friday 16 January 2015. The aim of the meeting was to explore from social care mangers’ perspectives some of the challenges of delivering care closer to home. Given the pressures currently facing the hospital acute sector and especially Accident and Emergency Departments, discussions of care closer to home are especially topical as it explores how community health and social care staff can work together to keep people out of hospital where appropriate or to help them come home earlier. Continue reading

Shifting policy attention to the social care workforce

Dr Shereen HusseinDr Shereen Hussein is Principal Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. (956 words)

The year 2014 has seen growing attention given to the social care workforce, with a number of high profile reviews being published, including the Kingsmill Review ‘Taking Care’, the Unison report into home care ‘Time to care’, the Demos review of residential care and, launched today, the Burstow Commission review on the future of the home care workforce, ‘Key to care’.

The question of how to maintain a high quality social care workforce has received academic scrutiny for many years, with research highlighting the lack of career progression, low pay and status, and the inability of the sector to attract young and diverse groups of workers as some of the key issues. There are many reasons why we are in this state of ‘crisis’ but at the core is the assumption that care work is something that can be performed by ‘anyone’—it does not require a vast amount of skills and we can always find a willing worker to do it. While these assumptions go unspoken, they underline how the sector operates and derive from the perception of care work as ‘women’s’ work that comes ‘naturally’; if the family can do it why do we need a skilled professional to do it? Continue reading

What social care support is provided to family carers? What support do family carers want?

Jo Moriarty Nov 2014bJo Moriarty is Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit in the Policy Institute at King’s. This month sees the publication of the Research Findings of a project she led on Social care practice with carers. (736 words)

 

I’ve lost the man that I fell in love with and I now just feel like a full time nurse. (Nicola-Jane, Carer08)

Research about family carers often focuses on the problems they face. However, at a time when increases in social care funding are not enough to meet the additional demand for services and when it is expected that the gap between the number of people needing support and the number of people able to support them is widening, we need to focus not just on problems but on finding better ways to support the six and half million people providing unpaid help to members of their family and friends in the United Kingdom. Continue reading

The challenges of medical workforce migration between the UK and New Zealand

Prof Robin GauldOn 29 October 2014 the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s hosts a seminar examining workforce migration in health and social care (places still available). Prof Jill Manthorpe, Director of the Unit, is joined by Prof Stephen Bach, Department of Management at King’s: they will be the formal respondents to a presentation given by Professor Robin Gauld who is the 2014 NZ-UK Link Foundation Visiting Professor. Here, Robin Gauld introduces his work, which focuses on health workforce migration between New Zealand and the UK. (531 words)

The week of 6 October saw significant media coverage in the UK of the 2014 State of Medical Education and Practice report by the General Medical Council. This indicated that around half of all migrating doctors are departing for the shores of Australia and New Zealand. One newspaper summed it up as: ‘…They cost us £610,000 to train – but 3,000 a year are leaving us for a life in the sun…‘. Continue reading

What can the city banks learn from social care?

The Registered Managers’ Programme from The National Skills Academy for Social Care aims to better equip Registered Social Care Managers to meet the challenges they face, to reduce their isolation by networking them at local and national level, and to enable them to recognise their leadership role. As part of the Programme, they are funding Local Networks to support Registered Managers on the ground, either where demand has been identified but no Network exists, or to strengthen and expand existing ones.

One such network has recently been established in Cumbria with support from the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London, and it builds on earlier work around communities of practice. For more information contact michelle.cornes@kcl.ac.uk

This post was written by the members of the Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network following their meeting last month.

The focus of this meeting (4 June 2014) was celebrating the work of the huge number of social care workers who do a great job every day and make a really positive difference to the lives of people who need care and support. Inevitably though, the conversation moved to discussing the recent Panorama programme (Behind Closed Doors, 30 April 2014) on abusive care, and the impact programmes like this have on staff in the sector. That led to us thinking about what registered social care managers can do to raise the profile of care that is caring and compassionate?

Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network

The Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network at the June 2014 meeting

For the front-line care workers in attendance at this meeting, programmes like Behind Closed Doors are far removed from their day-to-day experiences of delivering care. A good day for some starts with crumpets, toast and jam and a chance to catch up with each other (called a ‘hand over’ in the jargon). There are enormous challenges in delivering good quality carefor example how to be personalised, compassionate and ‘quick’ (in your 15 minute time slot with each resident). Work is often stressful, physically demanding (12 hour shifts) and emotionally draining. Needless to say, the situation is not helped by the current climate of austerity and chronic underfunding. However, the job brings with it enormous rewards and a great sense of personal satisfaction. At the heart of the work is your team, like a family almost, and all the emotional benefits which flow from being collegiate.

Added to this, is the sense that you are making a very real and positive difference to people’s lives. In this business it is the ‘smiles and the thank yous’  that count for most… The six figure bonuses, pay rises, company cars and expenses said to be absolutely essential to recruit and retain the ‘best’ staff in the more compassionate(less) industries are seemingly not so important in social care. Maybe the city banks have something to learn from social care managers in this respect?

Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network

The Cumbria Registered Social Care Managers’ Network at the June 2014 meeting

Where programmes like Panorama can have a particularly detrimental impact is that they can work to undermine the confidence and integrity of some social care managers. The desire to ‘protect’ the public from abusive care often sees the inspectorates and commissioners of services imposing further layers of monitoring and regulation. However, unless carefully implemented as part of a wider culture of learning and improvement, this can quickly lead to a ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario in which there is a lack of trust and authentic partnership working. While the ‘best managers’ will follow the rules and regulations, reporting ‘poor practices’ or any ‘safeguarding’ incidents as they are required to do, they can be left feeling demoralised and ‘brow beaten’ by the response. ‘Poor managers’ meanwhile will keep their heads down; they will not engage externally and will remain largely hidden from view, that is, until the television cameras go in.

How to engender trust and authentic relationships (the ‘smiles and the thank yous’) between commissioners and providers of social care services is a question we shall return to in future meetings. Celebrating the role of the social care worker and raising the profile of ‘good care’ has just been a first step.

For more information about this post please contact Michelle Cornes, Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit at King’s College London. The Unit is part of The Policy Institute @ King’s.