A blog entry by Dr Agnes Turnpenny and Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal

On the 4th of September we celebrated Professional Care Workers’ Day, a festival to support the 1.6 million care workers in the UK.

The festival was organised by NACAS (National Association for Carer and Support Workers), a professional membership body for care workers and marked by events and celebrations across the country. Karla and Agnes from the Sustainable Care team attended the main event in London that was packed with inspiring keynote speakers, exhibitors and various workshops, from self-massage and physiotherapy to eating well when working shifts and mindfulness to support the wellbeing of professional care workers.

Agnes Turnpenny

Dr Agnes Turnpenny

Research Associate

Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal

Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal

UKRI Innovation Fellow

Karolina Gerlich, NACAS’ CEO, kicked off reminding us that delivering care is a skilled and unique profession that deserves recognition, respect, and celebration, “the role is complex and requires high levels of patience and empathy”. This was followed by Louie Werth from Care Research, who presented the findings of the 2019 Well-being Research – we will dedicate a separate blog post to this.

Dr Jane Townson, UKHCA’ CEO, gave us an in-depth overview of the Home Care sector, where there is an ever-increasing demand for jobs and no signs of slowing down. The future of the care workforce is promising and new models of care offer opportunities for career development: “There is a huge variety of employers and a wide variety of roles in home care,” she said. Neil Eastwood, author of Saving Social Care, gave excellent examples on ways to recruit future professional carers. For example, by looking at the soft skills from the hundreds of people with customer service experience from a dying high street. Skills for Care’s I Care… Ambassadors programme – introduced by Jane Brightman at the event – is designed to support peer recruitment and provide first-hand information about working in the care sectors to a variety of people in local communities.

Vic Rayner, executive director of the National Care Forum talked about innovation in the sector and what drives the transformation of service and business models. Particularly, she highlighted the range and potential of technology, as well as the human rights and ethical implications of these.

Professor Martin Green, CEO of Care England raised the point of aligning care workers’ rewards and status to the current NHS framework, thus providing easy transference of roles and a clearer career pathway. He also highlighted the importance on focusing on the person and training the workforce to their strengths rather than keep fixing their weaknesses. Nadra Ahmed, Chairman of the National Care Association, argued that social care is the backbone of the NHS, and the work social care does is becoming more complex, medical and challenging.

Amanda Waring, author of The Carers’ Bible gave an emotive talk and examples of the commitment of the frontline care staff. She talked about how key is for professional carers to look after their own wellbeing, which sometimes can be constantly affected by emotional and sometimes physical abuse. She said that “without good emotional care, healing is impaired”.

Trudie Fell, founder of Bellevie, gave a tremendous example of their Home Care organisation that puts the care workforce first. “We care for our carers so they can care for others” is their business maxim. By paying annual salaries rather than hourly rates, and focusing on outcomes rather than tasks, Bellevie is an emergent model of home care with self-managing teams and wellbeing as their forefront mission.

Although most speakers highlighted the endemic challenges faced by the workforce and the sector as a whole, such as low pay, high turnover, and poor employment conditions, there also seems to be an enthusiastic momentum for change and innovations in many areas. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive workforce strategy that raises the status, pay, skills and workload of care workers

It was a truly great experience and well-organised event that really showed the importance of the workforce and raised the issues that require imminent change. We are looking forward to next year’s Professional Care Workers Day and hoping to share some of our findings from Sustainable Care.

See the social media highlights: @NACAS #ProfessionalCareWorkersDay

Connect with us through Twitter @Zimpel_Leal and @ATurnpenny

Dr Agnes Turnpenny & Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal

Watch the video by NACAS to learn more about Professional Care Workers Day!

More blog entries by Agnes and Karla

Learn more about Agnes' work on the Sustainable Care programme here

Migrant care workers in the UK

An analysis of sustainability of care at home

Learn more about Karla's work on the Sustainable Care programme here

Dr Karla Zimpel-Leal

UKRI Innovation Fellow