Posted: 31 October 2018
... and spare a thought for professional bodies that support them!
I joined the board of Skills for Care on the merger of the National Skills Academy for Social Care (NSASC) in 2014. I had been a founder-director of the NSASC, established in 2009, which was supported by the National Care Forum where I was Executive Director at the time.
The NSASC was formed as an employer-led membership organisation focusing on leadership in social care because leadership (at all levels) is so central to the delivery of good quality care and support services. The Skills Academy developed the ‘Leadership Qualities Framework for Adult Social Care’ to embed leadership at all levels throughout the workforce. Given the employer-led focus there was a particular remit to work with registered managers as they have such a pivotal leadership role and this led to the formation of the registered manager network.
When the decision to explore a merger with Skills for Care was proposed I became a member of the joint group established by both boards which met regularly to make recommendations on whether and how to proceed with bringing the two bodies together. There was significant support for the merger across the sector and from the Department of Health. And a major programme of work instituted by the Skills Academy which was incorporated into the core activities of Skills for Care. I’m proud of the way in which those areas of work remain a key feature of the offer around leadership in adult social care.
Much has been written over the years about the value and importance of the registered manager to the quality of care and support services. Arguably acknowledgement of the fundamental role of registered managers has been a long time coming! Not least because the role of the frontline manager has always been crucial to delivering consistent quality in adult social care and has never (yet) been given the recognition it deserves.
I’ve heard many a good conference speech about the vital importance of the manager in care settings, with impassioned calls for improved pay, terms and conditions … status, standing and esteem. I’ve heard ministers and senior executives and commissioners describing the place of the frontline manager in settings and maintaining standards, safeguarding individual rights, building relationships, creating a community, developing staff, managing budgets and resources. And laudable this is … obviously. It should hardly need emphasising as the biggest single factor influencing quality of care is the manager! If transformation of care and support services are to be managed successfully then leadership at all levels will need protecting, developing and given permissions. They need to be appropriately rewarded and have a sense that they are truly valued.
I believe that a network of registered managers getting together at a local level to support each other is of paramount importance to the future of adult social care. I am delighted that registered manager networks, now led by Skills for Care, are available to managers across England and that up-take of registered manager membership of Skills for Care is also strong, with 100 managers a month signing-up. It would be wonderful if membership and the networks eventually attracted every registered manager as a means of providing practical guidance and mutual support. I credit much of my professional development to membership of the Residential Care Association (later Social Care Association) when I became a care home manager – I learned so much simply from talking to other people doing a similar job. It was a great help, particularly in overcoming the isolation that new managers often feel. If you are a registered manager and you don’t belong to a local network do check out the nearest to you and if there isn’t one I’d urge you to form one – and what’s more Skills for Care can help.
So, I’ve served my time on the board of Skills for Care and recognise the importance of continuity and change for the good governance of a charity. As I make way for new trustees to join the board, who I know are equally committed to advocating the role of registered managers I’d like to make a personal plea to the care sector. It is a source of disappointment (and bewilderment) to me, now observing the sector from a bit of a distance, that the value of a body such as Skills for Care, working to improve workforce recruitment and retention, promoting quality improvement, integration and the prevention agenda, adding value to workforce intelligence, doesn’t have care providers strongly championing their contribution. Partnership and collaboration will be ever more important to the future of care and support services. Skills for Care is a crucial partner for the adult social care sector as we prepare for the transformation that will be needed – good luck!