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Involving care workers in the Social Care Future

Summary: there is room for more involvement from care workers in Social Care Future's vision.

Last week I went to the 5th anniversary gathering for Social Care Future in Manchester. The community behind Social Care Future aims to reframe the way people think about social care, emphasising the need to redesign services alongside those who draw on support. The two day event was energised and optimistic, a coming together of those who draw on support and those responsible for delivering formal social care services.

It would be fantastic to see more care and support workers involved in the Social Care Future community.

Committed care workers are ideally placed to advocate in forums such as Social Care Future on behalf of individuals who draw on support but are unable to self-advocate. I have worked with numerous individuals in this position; many are living with the advanced stages of dementia. We are engrained in our clients' everyday lives and, as a result, are often able to see better than anyone other than the client themselves how things could be organised differently. A good care worker - the kind who might engage with these discussions - knows to always step back and let those we support speak for themselves, unless they 100% unable to do so.

It makes sense for care workers to be involved on behalf of ourselves, too. There are 1.2 million direct care and support workers in England (Skills For Care, 2023). Any Social Care Future is our future, too.

This left me considering why care workers have - as far as I can tell - not played a more prominent part in the Social Care Future community to date:

  • Perhaps it is because Social Care Future's goal is to drastically redesign the services we currently deliver. I for one fully support this mission and would be keen to be part of the conversation about how it happens, as I'm sure would many of my colleagues.

  • Perhaps it is because those who draw on support who are at the heart of the Social Care Future community have had bad experiences with care workers. It is right that the voices of those who draw on support are listened to first and foremost and paramount that there is a safe space for this. Having worked alongside numerous care workers who represent the very best of humanity, I know that good care workers have so much to offer, too.

  • Perhaps it is because individual care workers are easily conflated with the interests of the care providers they are employed by. I am not my employer.

  • Perhaps it has to do with negative perceptions of care work and those who do it. An all-too-common view that our work is unskilled and deserving of low pay. If those views are even subconsciously held, it is conceivable that care workers might not be top of the list to invite into the room.

  • Or perhaps it's just as simple as the fact that it is not easy to make contact with individual care workers, as until now there has been no space where we can come together independently of mediation by our employers. It has been said that the voices of homecare workers are "structurally silenced" (Hayes, 2017, p.15). This is where Homecare Workers Group comes in.

Regardless of the possible reasons why I did not meet any other care workers at last week's event, except for those there to support a client, it would be fantastic to see more care workers become involved in the vision for our Social Care Future over the next five years.

'Involve care workers'

'Pay travel time to home care workers'
A bridge of ideas at the Social Care Future gathering

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