Posted: 7 November 2016
Andy Tilden, Director of Sector Development at Skills for Care, reflects on this year’s NCAS in Manchester and the challenges facing social care.
The six hour train journey back from the National Children and Adult Services conference in Manchester (#ncas16) was not all bad. It gave me time to reflect on whether there is still a benefit in attending National conferences at a time of competing work pressures and dwindling budgets. In particular I was able to reflect on the value of attendance versus the cost. You probably do much the same as me. Anyway for what it is worth these are some of my thoughts:
- Picking the right conference to attend is tricky. Delegates want a decent balance of content, a mix of delivery styles, defined target audience(s), high quality delegates and a decent venue and price. I believe NCAS conferences get this more right than many others.
- If you are so minded, conferences provide the opportunity to network with people you rarely meet with and also provide great opportunities to increase your network. The Guardian social work event and the Guardian/Seditio hosted Charity quiz certainly enabled me to forge new links as well as renew old acquaintances.
- Despite the largely wholesale acceptance of social care being at a ‘tipping point’ I admit to feeling energised about the possibilities of social care being an answer to meeting an individual’s needs for care and support, to reducing pressure on the NHS and also being a cost-effective solution. To be in the company of many others who share the view is affirming, even if not all see it this way.
- Conversations with attendees in sessions and at our Skills for Care stand confirmed that our products and services ‘hit the spot’ and reaffirmed the very necessary challenge that we must always strive to improve and consider new ways to engage and support employers.
- An example of this came when the Minister for Community Health and Care, David Mowat MP came to our stand and highlighted retention of workers as being one of his key issues of focus. It was good to be able to share with him and also share with delegates the breadth of resources we have to assist employers in retaining staff. In particular I was pleased to say that our very own conference on 9 March 2017 (in Liverpool) will have recruitment and retention as a central focus. The Minister has already accepted our invitation to speak.
- One challenge came when he mentioned the absence of a career pathway in social care, compared to that in health. I was all too able to point out some of the reasons: no clear qualification requirements, no registration of the workforce (including protection of title), 19,300 separate employers setting their own terms and conditions. It was an easy response but the challenge is one I shall be reflecting on further with my colleagues.
Keen to hear what you think - tweet me @andytildensfc.