May 16

Considering the training needs of self-employed people who run a community enterprise

Posted: 24 May 2016





Self-employment accounted for 90 per cent of all jobs growth during the recessionary years of 2008-13. Should these rates continue, the Royal Society of Arts predict that the number of people in self-employment could outgrow the public sector workforce by 2018.

Little is known about self-employed workers providing social care and support including those who run community enterprises, although clearly it is a growing sector. In order to help with service and workforce planning Community Catalysts, Shared Lives Plus, the Department of Health and Skills for Care (the organisation responsible for leadership and workforce in adult social care in England) were keen to understand the career development, skills and learning requirements of people who are self-employed. This included both community entrepreneurs and Shared Lives carers.

The survey

A questionnaire was designed to survey the experiences of self-employed workers. 61 people completed the survey and the final report can be found here. Community Catalysts has a particular interest in people who run community enterprises so we have taken the wider findings and extrapolated this group. Key highlights:

  • 78% of respondents were female and 22% were male
  • 53% had been in their current role for 3 or more years
  • 80% only work on a self-employed basis and have no other employment
  • 78% had paid experience of caring, 43% had provided unpaid care to a friend or relative and 14% had voluntary experience (some overlap)
  • 61% had more than 11 years and 83% more 5 years’ experience of care work. This is in contrast to the overall profile of adult social care workers reported by the National Minimum Data Set- social care (NMDS-SC) where only 50% had 11 or more years’ experience, 62% had five or more years’ experience, but 22% had less than 2 years’ experience.
  • 60% had chosen to work on a self-employed basis because they wanted a better work/life balance and to make use of their knowledge, skills and experience
  • 56% care for someone with a learning disability and 39% care for older people
  • Almost 57% had no qualification in health and social care and none were currently studying for a qualification in this subject area. Almost 17% thought it would be useful to do so in the coming year.
  • Amongst those who did have qualifications in health and social care most were at Level 3 or Level 4.
  • The training most commonly undertaken by people in the past 12 months was First Aid (12%), Safeguarding (11%) and Health and safety (9%).
  • Overall, levels of training were quite low.

The survey showed that the majority of respondents had more experience of working in the care sector than the overall profile of adult social care worker.

The survey also showed that the levels of qualification were relatively low. Funding for qualifications under Skills for Care’s Workforce Development Fund (WDF) is only available for employees (including employed Personal Assistants) and this lack of access to funding for workers who are self-employed may be a potential barrier.


Piloting a different approach to the Workforce Development Fund (WDF)

As a result of these findings Community Catalysts and Skills for Care agreed to pilot an approach to give self-employed workers access to the WDF to fund qualifications. 2 areas where Community Catalysts has a presence were chosen to pilot this approach - Wolverhampton and Somerset. 5 self-employed workers were supported to complete the application form, gain an understanding of the qualifications available, identify a training provider and gain access to funding. The providers undertook qualifications including:


  • Level 2 Certificate in Preparing To Work In Adult Social Care (QCF)
  • Level 5 Diploma in Leadership in Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s services
  • Level 3 Award in Supporting Activity Provision in Social Care
  • Level 2 Award in Stroke Awareness
  • Level 2 Award in Promotion of Food Safety and Nutrition
  • Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Dementia Care


A further 11 providers were interested in the pilot but didn’t make an application citing the following reasons:


I was interested in attending the mental health training but trying to fit it in with work is difficult. Time off is limited and I do not have cover

I wanted to enrol on the level 3 Certificate in Dementia Care but the local training provider was only able to offer level 2, which I already have

I was interested in Manual Handling (to train others) however I struggled to find a provider and ran out of time.

I was interested in dementia and management training. The days and times the training is offered clashes with work’; I can't turn down paid and regular work to attend the meetings/training.

I live too far away from the training centre so cannot commit the time

Yes I am interested for myself and for my staff. I am especially interested in the training on Dementia, Food Safety and Nutrition, Assisting and Moving, Mental Capacity Act. Issue: was not able to find a suitable provider and time considerations.’


The results of the pilot suggests that:

  • Self-employed workers struggle to identify the time required to undertake qualifications, particularly if the training is delivered during the day time when they are working and supporting customers.
  • Another barrier, particularly in a rural area like Somerset, was finding a local training provider.
  • People had problem identifying a training provider who offered the qualification, at the right level, which met their needs.
  • Many self-employed workers were able to access free training on some ‘mandatory’ topics and this seemed to reduce the demand for more time consuming study leading to qualifications.


What we learned

The survey and subsequent pilot indicate a need for self-employed providers of community care services to have good access to a range of learning and development opportunities to ensure that they have the same opportunities as their employed colleagues.

However this needs to happen in a way that takes account of the reality of people’s work patterns and commitments and allows for a more flexible approach including distance and e-learning.


What next?

After evaluating the full impact of the pilot Skills for Care will be producing a short report in the summer of 2016 in partnership with Community Catalysts, which will inform future approaches to funding learning and development for the growing number of self-employed workers in the care sector.