Skills for Care

Why it’s important to improve digital confidence for people working in social care

09 Nov 2023

5 min read

Claire Smout

  • Digital
  • Learning and development
  • Leadership
  • Skills for Care

As we launch our ‘Improving digital confidence’ campaign, our Head of Digital Skills, Claire Smout, discusses why digital confidence is so important for the adult social care workforce and what Skills for Care is doing to support digital skills in the sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly pushed the social care sector into using more digital technology, but it’s important that we move forward from that and think more about how digital technology can support the social care sector now and in the long-term.

Digital can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to even know where to start on your digital journey.

We know technology is a huge part of most people’s everyday lives – and that includes people of all ages. As such, when people are then in a position where they’re drawing on care and support, it’s important to them that they still have access to the same everyday technology they’re used to accessing.

This will become increasingly true moving forward as future generations for whom technology is so embedded in their lives access care and support.

As explained by our social care panellists in our ‘I’m a technophobe, get me out of here – taking the fear out of digital for social care managers’ webinar, ultimately the greater use of digital technology means greater personalisation of care and better outcomes for people who draw on care and support.

Digital social care records can support managers to analyse data on individuals within seconds, by producing reports and flagging potential deterioration in individuals’ health. When considering how long this would take to achieve from paper records and opening those archive boxes, you can start to see how moving to a digital set up can really make a difference.

Employers must start this journey now for their businesses to survive and adapt to future needs. By breaking it down into manageable segments, implementing technology and software can be achieved by any adult social care employer, of any size.

Many people have asked me, why I’m so passionate about digital. Speaking from personal experience, my Nan who passed away quite a few years ago in her 90’s was someone who enjoyed using the internet at home to research her family history and to Skype with loved ones who live around the world. When she moved from her own home into residential care, she didn’t have access to the internet (and it was before 3G and 4G mobile data was available). This meant she couldn’t keep as connected with loved ones and she lost those digital skills that she’d gained, and that part of her life that was important to her.

In the case of my Grandad, having access to digital technology allowed him to maintain his independence and stay in his own home. He had Retinitis Pigmentosa’s, a genetic condition and was severely sight impaired. He was using assistive technology for years and years to support him living independently.

He was able to, for example, boil the kettle to make a drink, and he had a talking clock on his watch. He also had access to telecare and telehealth equipment. These small bits of assistive technology can make a huge difference to someone's life, and it’s vital that people who provide care and support are aware of the positive impact these types of technology can have for people.

While these are my personal experiences, I do get contacted by people who are drawing on care and support and their families about their experiences of accessing technology in social care.

And there are lots of younger people accessing care and we know that younger people have technology deeply embedded in their lives – they need to be able to access and use this and that should be a part of their person-centred care.

One example I know of is of a young individual, who has a learning disability. They live at a supported living site and have a PlayStation console in their room. Their support worker is able to switch the console on and also provides troubleshooting support if something isn’t working properly. The support worker went on holiday and no one else knew how to use the console, so the individual was unable to access this until the support worker returned. As the individual was unable to access the console, they presented with challenging behaviour during this time. This caused the individual a week of unnecessary distress. Following this, all staff at the site have since been trained on using the console.

We all come to work in the adult social care sector because we care about supporting others to be as independent as possible and as we move forward with technology, we have to accept that this will become part of our day-to-day role and appreciate the positive difference this can make to the people who draw on care and support.


How Skills for Care is supporting the sector with digital skills

We still have around 10% of organisations that aren't digitalised, meaning they're not using technology. At Skills for Care, we’re working across a wide range of initiatives to support the social care sector with building digital skills and confidence.

A key part of this work is the Digitalisation in Social Care programme (DISC). This is a commitment from the Government to support the adult social care sector with funding to increase digital skills and ways of working – that could include investing in digital social care records or purchasing new technology.

To support this project Skills for Care is running three webinars.

  • I’m a technophobe, get me out of here – taking the fear out of digital for social care managers.
  • Change management – sharing lessons and learnings from managers leading digital change in their services.
  • I wish I knew then what I know now – sharing lessons and learnings from early adopters of digital approaches.

Our Digital Champions programme is also a key focus. As a registered manager or a nominated individual, you need to have allies within your organisation to support positive progress with digital ways of working, and digital champions can be that ally.

A digital champion will be a role staff members can take on in addition to their everyday role – you can think of it the same as a dignity champion or a dementia champion.

Our programme will train digital champions in how to be a champion in their organisation, provide them with a recognised certificate naming them as a digital champion, and provide them with the opportunity to be part of a network of digital champions.

We’ve run one session so far, which had over 50 attendees, and we have our next session planned for January.

The  Digital Skills Framework launched in May. This is a resource to support the adult social care workforce to develop their digital skills within the sector.

We’re running eLearning modules which provide more information about the key areas covered within the framework in a bite-sized and engaging way. This will really help providers to be able to bring the framework to life and put it into action in their organisations.

As part of all this work, it’s also really important for us to establish a baseline of what digital roles and digital skills in the adult social care sector look like. We’re using our Adult Social Care Workforce Data Set (ASC-WDS) to help us do this, by adding new options which allow employers to share data about the digital roles and skills in their organisation

This is vital in providing a clear picture of what digital transformation looks like from a workforce perspective in terms of training and roles, which can be used to influence decision-making by the Government and other stakeholders about where investment in digital within the sector is best-placed.

Beyond this, a key part of our current work is working with the learning provider workforce to ensure training providers feel confident and ready to be able to include digital in the current training provision that’s offered.

This is linked to delivering the newly-developed Level 5 Digital Leadership Award.

And our Digital Leadership Programme, in conjunction with the National Care Forum (NCF) is now officially launched. This programme supports managers and leaders with building their own digital skills and confidence and developing their team.

This is just a snapshot of some of the key work we have ongoing at Skills for Care to support with digital skills.


More information about these projects and our other resources and support for digital skills can be found on our #DigitalConfidence spotlight:

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