Make the registration of adult social care workers compulsory in England
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Home Care Insight and the National Association for Care & Support Workers (NACAS) are calling on the Government to make the registration of adult social care workers compulsory in England.
Supporting people in social care is a highly skilled profession and must recognised as such with a registration system that helps regulate the workforce, supports values-based recruitment and most of all, supports the workforce to provide the best possible care.
Registration means that registered care workers are accountable for their conduct and their practice, thus protecting vulnerable people from harm and boosting professional standards.
Northern Ireland was the first in the UK to introduce compulsory registration for social care workers in March 2017, closely followed by Scotland in October the same year. In Wales, home care workers must register to work in the sector from 2020. This leaves England as the only country in the UK without plans to make registration compulsory for frontline adult care workers.
Doctors are regulated by the General Medical Council and nurses by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, so why aren't adult social care workers - the people who provide care in people's homes and in care homes - also regulated?
Care home and domiciliary care providers in England must legally register with the Care Quality Commission. This ensures that health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve. Thorough inspections by the CQC examine whether DBS checks have been carried out and that carers have gone through the appropriate training.
But while care providers (the employers) are legally required to register with the CQC, individual employees are not. And without the registration these individuals, a care worker who does something illegal or unethical are unaccountable and can continue to work in the sector. This has to change.
There are also a number of companies launching in the market that claim to match freelance carers with members of the public via an app - the so-called Tinder of care. While many of these companies are reputable, the carers on their books are not regulated by an industry body.
At the same time, the majority of care workers do a fantastic job and to officially recognise their value through a register would also be extremely positive.
Professionalisation would enhance the perception of a paid care role amongst the general public, thus encouraging more to consider the role.
But thoughtful implementation is key. Registration should look at competence and recognise the skills and knowledge that can be gained after a few years’ experience working in social care. It should not be a system that accepts only a single qualification, as that would exclude a large portion of the workforce. It must be adaptable and enable staff to demonstrate the care, compassion and skill needed to do the job. Care workers should feel proud to register and be able to maintain the required level of skill to retain it.
Registration should also give opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD). Care workers on every level should have a chance to develop in their role. It should be possible to have pathways and specialisms in dementia, learning disabilities or palliative care.
Finally, to be a success, the system needs to encourage enrollment and not be seen as a costly bureaucratic exercise.
Home Care Insight and NACAS are calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to make registration mandatory for care workers, in order to help enforce standards, training and consistency of care throughout the sector.
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