LAUNCH OF THE SOCIAL CARE WORKFORCE STRATEGY

26/05/2009

The previosu Minister for Care Services Speech

May I start by paying tribute to John as he approaches the end of his year as ADASS president.

John, I'm tremendously grateful for your leadership, your advice and your hard work over the last 12 months. And to achieve all of this while simultaneously working full-time as Director of Social Services in West Sussex is extraordinary.

May I also take this opportunity to welcome Jenny [Owen] as incoming president. Jenny - I wish you every success and I'm looking forward to working with you.

And, to everyone here, it's a pleasure to address you again - six months on from the first time I addressed you, shortly after being appointed as Care Services Minister.

Since then, I've particularly enjoyed getting out and about, to see the great work going on. The many projects around the country turning the black and white print of Putting People First into colourful reality, and making the difference to people's lives.

There are so many highlights:

- The pioneering work I've seen on personal budgets in Essex, which is Jenny's neck of the woods, and elsewhere - the way they're giving people more control, more self-determination and more freedom over their lives.
- This is not just in one place but around the country. We've come along way in the last 12 months.

Personalisation as a transforming force

These examples demonstrate that personalisation isn't meaningless jargon, but a hugely transforming force. Transforming for care users, transforming for the people looking after them, and transforming for us ourselves, as leaders of the system.

And, one year into Putting People First, they show that the journey towards truly personalised care is already underway.

Now though the pace is quickening.

This year alone, we've had Valuing People Now. We've had the National Dementia Strategy which was hugely significant. We've just launched New Horizons, our scoping exercise for a new vision for mental health services. We need to start thinking about the mental health wellbeing of our communities.

Add to this last year's Carers' Strategy and the Independent Living Strategy, and you get a sense of the scale of our ambitions. And I get sense - in what I see around the country - of the difference this is already making and driving it forward. I'm tremendously grateful for how far you've come in just 12 months.

The challenges ahead

But while this is a time of real progress, I recognise it's also a time of real pressure for you, as local leaders. I hear about these in the update meetings I have with ADASS.

There are barriers and frustrations and I appreciate you're very much in the firing line, with tremendous amounts of responsibility and huge risk falling on your shoulders, and new challenges coming at you from all directions.

For instance, the issue of safeguarding - there's the challenge of how we resolve the tension between people having choices but staying safe - a crucial dimension of our ongoing work on safeguarding.

And the challenge, as David Behan set out yesterday, not just of implementing programmes - "delivery, delivery, delivery" as he puts it - but genuinely shifting cultures, winning hearts and minds, and inspiring the little ideas and little actions, grow into mighty oaks of new ways of delivering and experiencing social care.

Then, of course, there's the economy - the way the recession is affecting local Government, ratcheting up the pressure on local services to make every penny count. I recognise the pressures this presents for you.

In fact, the economy makes this something of a watershed moment for care services and big decisions and choices have to be made.

It's your chance - our chance - to make the case for confident and effective local services at a time when people will be relying on them most of all, more than before.

And that takes me onto a third source of pressure. The political pressures - small and big P. The daily pressure you're under to argue your corner within your local authority. To confound the critics. To win the argument inside and outside the council chamber.

I think your role - as local ambassadors for social care - cannot be over-estimated. This is your territory, what YOU do. Promoting this at a local level is central to what you do.

And here I'm talking not just about what goes on in the Town Hall, but also how you operate beyond it. Reaching out to communities. Putting yourself in the shoes of people using care and services. And most important of all, building the popular demand for change - that demand 'from below', from the general public, for better care services.

We need to keep the momentum going.

The Care and Support Green Paper

Not least because grassroots support is vital for the Care and Support Green Paper. This will happen in June and is very close given it's the end of April.

You're going to have to wait just a little longer for the specifics. But I can say the proposals we're working on will be hugely significant, not just for social care, but for politics as a whole. This is a moment when we stake out our case for the future.

That's because the debate isn't just about funding and demographic pressures - important though that is. The real debate is about the sort of society we want to build in the future. The sort of communities we want to live in. The commitments we are prepared to make ... politicians, council leaders, front line practitioners and the general public ... what each of us are prepared to do to make it happen... capturing the minds of public about what we are doing.

This is the context. This is the consensus we need to build - a new "social contract" to sit alongside a new funding settlement for social care. This is exactly what our Green Paper proposals will explore.

No time like the present

What this means is that, far from eclipsing it, the Green Paper brings a new sense of urgency to personalisation.

Because the oxygen to sustain a vibrant care system into the future won't just come from above, from the contents of Green Papers. It also comes from below. These things mutually reinforce each other.

Comes from the public seeing the value of local services, feeling real ownership and engagement in them in every local authority up and down the country, and demanding more from their councils - if need be, via the ballot box. People need to be engaged in reform.

And it comes from every person involved in social care seeing reform, not as a tickbox exercise or another chore, but a personal mission. I know it's a personal mission for everyone in this room.

So there really is "no time like the present". We need to build up trust, understanding and awareness of personalised care here and now and how it's improving and changing lives.

How?

Well, we learn from the trailblazers. On their attention to strong governance and good accountability. Good joint-planning and joint commissioning. And sound partnership working at all levels, seamlessly linking health, housing and social care and fostering creativity and enterprise in the field ...

These are the hallmarks of success. This is what the best in the business do.

Now though, we need the exceptional to become the mainstream - we need excellence on an industrial scale and free people to innovate.

Building a first class workforce

But, of course, excellent care requires excellent people. The best leaders. The best managers. The best front line staff. All working towards shared goals.

And it's clear to all of us that if we want a 21st century care system, we need a 21st century workforce to provide it.

The new Workforce Strategy I'm launching today will help us secure this.

First and foremost, it provides a new framework for action ... a new sense of clarity on the areas we need to focus on - moving us away from the 150-odd recommendations in the 2006 Options for Excellence, to just six clear strategic priorities. And it reflects our very real intent to close the gaps that we all know need filling.

1. Leadership

Leadership is at the heart of the strategy. I've already made crystal clear the importance of the DASS role, as a sort of lodestar for the reform journey on which we have embarked.

But as much as we expect of you, it's right you should expect more from us - to help you do your job, to build up skills and develop your own careers.

We're therefore setting up a National Skills Academy for Social Care - a new centre of excellence, which will operate as a skills hub for the sector.

As part of that role, the Academy will work on a new National Management Trainee Scheme to help us nurture the leaders and managers of the future. Your leadership is important to us.

I mentioned political leadership earlier. Another area we're looking at is whether an elected member should take a lead role on adult social care, just as they do in children's services - to give you more clout in the council Chamber.

2. Recruitment and retention

A second big area is recruitment and retention.

I'm sure you'll all have heard from yesterday's Budget, that the Government is committing £75 million to fund CareFirst, a new traineeship programme to get 50,000 more young people to work in social care.

I know recessions are clearly bad news for everyone. But they can sometimes change and shape people's priorities. And they can even reshape society as a whole if Government is brave enough to take it on.

We must be brave. The recession we're in at the moment demands an active approach - "fair not laissez faire", as somebody put it.

And this presents a golden opportunity for social care. Not just to push social care as a career choice, but to lay the foundations for an altogether more caring, more positive, more socially-minded society.

Yesterday's Budget announcement will encourage a whole new generation into social care. Helping more of them to make a difference, and be seen to make a difference in their communities, by taking on rewarding roles. And helping us to close the skills gap in social care and fill the vacancies that have grown as the workforce itself has expanded.

As you can imagine, the finer details are yet to be worked out. But I can confirm the Department of Work and Pensions will fund and administer the scheme through Job Centre Plus. It will be open to all 18 to 24 year olds unemployed for more than a year. And employers will receive a £1,500 subsidy to take on each trainee into sustainable employment.

For me, there's no room for half measures here. I want us to be ambitious and I expect as many providers as possible - small and large, third sector, statutory and independent - to get fully involved.

And 'trainee' means what exactly it says. We expect employers to train these young people, develop them, put them on the path to a long term career in social care.

So we must not compromise on quality. But we should use this to challenge some stereotypes. I visited Barking recently, where I met a couple of 17 year old who were six months into a social care apprenticeship. One was looking after someone with dementia. The other helping someone with learning difficulties.

Neither were they the sort you traditionally associate with social care, just a couple of Barking lads who thought they would be plumbers, mechanics. But both were absolutely loving the job, and looking forward to training and taking up careers in social care. That's the opportunity we have.

And once we've brought people in, we must do everything we can keep them. Growing their talents. Making them feel valued and respected. Helping them see social care as a long term career not a short term job.

That means building greater recognition and higher esteem for the sector, and celebrating the outstanding work that goes on, rather than staying quiet and then waiting for the next media storm to hit us.

That's why I want to create a new high profile awards for social care, including a social care apprentice of the year.

I also want us to boost the positive image of social work across the media. We've already had our TV campaign - which attracted nearly 400,000 hits to our website. That is astonishing. I met people in the street, saying "I could do that" - ordinary people.

Now we must build on this, particularly using regional and national media where we can, to promote the presentable, admirable, face of social care. The face we recognise in the great work we see every day. And a face the public needs to see far more than they do at the moment.

And finally let's set ourselves a target: to get the sector represented and recognised at the World Skills Championships in 2011. This can as a fitting demonstration of the excellent work already going on - excellence we now want to make universal and show the great skills young people have in this country.

3. Safeguarding standards

That takes me to my last point. It's essential we win back public confidence by safeguarding standards across the sector.

You heard yesterday from Cynthia Bower from the Care Quality Commission, who set out how the CQC will work with you in future to guarantee standards.

There is a balance to be struck here. We need a regulatory system that's proportionate, realistic and affordable for providers and gives the flexibility to allow things like personal budgets to work.

But the public must also be reassured when either they or their loved ones enter the care system that robust controls are in place to protect them. We need the whole sector to have a sense of legitimacy and core standards.

I'm concerned about the position of domiciliary workers. Many do fantastic work; but there are some, a small minority that threatens the reputation of the whole sector.

Today's Strategy, therefore, confirms we'll work with the General Social Care Council on a new registration scheme for home care workers.

We expect the GSCC to begin a register by early next year - initially on a voluntary basis - but with the expectation that registration will soon become compulsory.

And while we think it makes sense for registration to cover home care workers in the first instance, we may extend the registration to cover other social care workers, including residential care workers.

In the wake of Baby P, I appreciate there's a particular spotlight on social workers. Today's workforce strategy has a wider focus, potentially covering 1.5 million workers, not just the 80,000 in social worker positions.

But the strategy's focus on quality and standards does obviously relate to social work too, and will be enhanced by the more focused work the new Social Work Taskforce chaired by Moira Gibb is doing in response to Lord Laming's report.

Conclusion

I said earlier that the last six months have been tremendously busy. I can't stand here and promise either of us any respite for the future.

But I can promise is that we will do everything we can, in Whitehall and Westminster and a fantastic team in the department, to support you, to involve you, and to help you break down the barriers in your way.

And today, as much as I'm here to talk, I'm also here to listen - to listen to your concerns, your experiences, your ideas, your frustrations - just as I did six months ago.

But before I hand over to you, let me just say again that your contribution, your commitment and your leadership is key to everything we want to achieve in social care.

I'm tremendously grateful on behalf of the whole government for what you've already achieved. But I also know you're as keen as I am to make even more progress - and transform even more lives in future.

Because, ultimately, that's why we're here. That's what drives us. And by working together, learning together, leading together, I'm confident we can achieve something special over the next 12 months.

I'm up for the challenge. I sense you are too. So thanks again for all your hard work and I'm looking forward to working with you.

Thank you!