Social care has well and truly been in the spotlight throughout the Covid-19 crisis for better and for worse. While there has been more public awareness of the crucial work that social care professionals do, the industry has also experienced extreme hardship and loss as care homes have been hard hit by the virus. Not only have thousands of care and nursing home residents died from the virus, but care workers have also lost their lives in the battle to fight Covid-19. This has raised many questions around government guidelines, procedures and testing policies before and during the outbreak, as well as bringing attention an industry that many believe to be understaffed, overworked and underappreciated.
Steps have been taken to improve conditions for social care workers and recruit new professionals into the industry. In April the government launched a new campaign to boost the social care workforce, while they’ve also declared that testing will be offered to all staff and residents in care homes for people over 65 years old by 6 June. While these are positive steps, what happens once the attention shifts away from Covid-19? Will social care be forgotten, or does this represent a tide change towards a more positive future for the industry?
The Government’s ‘Care for others. Make a difference today’ campaign has been launched to attract thousands more people into the social care sector which currently employs 1.49 million people. The campaign aims to highlight the vital role the care workforce has had during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as positioning the industry as one that has long-term career options. As well as rapid training programmes developed with Skills for Care, the campaign promises free e-learning courses and webinars on topics such as safeguarding, dementia, person-centred care and supporting care at home. In addition, the social care action plan was launched to encourage previously registered social workers, occupational therapists and nurses to return to the sector, and it’s hoped that many of these professionals will continue working beyond the scope of Covid-19.
A more digital future
Social care isn’t the most technologically innovative industry, but Covid-19 has forced some councils and providers to digitise their offerings and usher this sector into the 21st century. When it became clear that some people may have been slipping through the cracks as shielding and isolation took hold, Essex, Kent and Suffolk councils rolled out a video conferencing project to help bridge the gap between care workers and vulnerable citizens. After procuring 5,000 closed-system tablet devices, the councils encouraged social care workers to virtually monitor residents in need.
This is reflective of an industry that is prepared to adapt and upskill, with many providers already using care technology to support service users, and could signal a move towards more technology-driven care practices in the future. There are, of course, barriers to this: budget restrictions mean new devices and training may not be available to all social care professionals and clients, while there remain assumptions about the lack of appetite for technological learning among vulnerable groups. However, AgeUK evidence suggests that the numbers of people aged 65 and older with access to the internet are rapidly increasing, while a Kent study found that 93% of participants felt safer when using telecare, saying it gave them reassurance and increased confidence.
Another benefit of implementing more digital measures within the social care industry is the data it can generate, which can in turn be used to support scientific discoveries and identify trends and outcomes. Care apps that digitise interactions and support training and reporting can create significant efficiencies for care workers, whilst allowing users to remain connected even in uncertain times like lockdown.
Your future in social care
With more government support and a more digitised future, social care is preparing for positive industry change. However, there remain many unfilled job vacancies and a desperate need for more kind, caring and qualified care workers to join the industry. If you’re looking for a social care job, we’d love to help you get started, re-enter the industry or make your next move. Wherever you’re at in your social care career, we could have the job for you. View our social care jobs here to get started.