Towards a positive #socialcarefuture – a piece of the jigsaw in the City of Wolverhampton

By David Watts & Brendan Clifford

In the City of Wolverhampton, we see ourselves as a piece in a jigsaw. We realise that we are one place amongst many. Like everyone else, though, we also think there’s lots of great things about our place, our community and geography.

But our place in the jigsaw has brought challenges, too. This blog is about one of these. In respect of our workforce, skills and job levels have changed over time with different types of roles available and skills required for them. The wider Council absolutely supports our approach to adult social care, where we have worked hard to reframe social care positively for the future and reduce the incorrect perception that it is merely a drain on resources, and not a career of choice.

This has particularly come alive in our collective work on skills and jobs where the Council is focussed on investment and regeneration as a key solution to addressing wider challenges. Where the City has led the way is in recognising that adult social care has such a positive input and should be a fundamental part of the investment and employment strategy. In 2016, we became the first Council in the country to work with our friends at Skills for Care to use their methodology for the economic contribution of adult social care to the City of Wolverhampton… £250 million is what they reckoned for us and providing jobs for around 6,500 people.

We took this learning to the Council’s top team and showed that about 80% of our local businesses employed fewer than 10 people. We showed how that linked to the changing models of care we have been working to bring about in what is sometimes called micro-commissioning or micro-providers. We showed how the economic contribution of our local care sector, when compared with other sectors, was much bigger. We also showed the links to other sectors such as health and children’s services which would increase the size of the economic contribution of care-related activity still further.

As a result, the council agreed to include the care sector amongst its priorities for regeneration. We established a “Careers into Care” partnership which energized our endeavours. We have built on our relationship with the independent care sector and employers chair our partnership which developed a local action plan. The plan includes approaches to career pathways and includes working with and supporting schools, that are now specialising in care and health. Our second strand is our work on developing apprenticeships in the care sector for younger people and those who are entering care work later in life. We have held several Job Fairs which have attracted around 1,000 attendees over time, linking attendees to interviews and to offers of employment. The real outcome has been that we have seen an overall reduction in our vacancy rate in adult social care services reported by Skills for Care.

We were delighted that others are following a similar path to ours and recognizing the contribution of social care to local economies. Not least, we were really pleased when we saw that the Government’s 2017 Industrial Strategy included the care sector, for the first time as far as we know, in such a strategy. It included the “ageing society” amongst its “Grand Challenges” as it is expected that by 2040, one-in-eight people will be aged over 75 (it’s one-in-12 currently). The national Industrial Strategy encourages development of Local Industrial Strategies, pretty much as we seem to have done in the City of Wolverhampton already, recognising the opportunities that present themselves in care and other sectors because of social and other changes.

Hopefully, up and down the country, across every other piece of the jigsaw, everyone involved in social care will be able to better demonstrate the impact of social care for employment, as a career of choice and as a positive contributor to the local place. The voices of people who want lives not services will be key to continuing to shape the sector and workforce of the future. Their voices are the most important in setting the scene for how lives can be lived well and will be key in leading our careers in to care partnership in attracting the best and brightest with the right values in to the sector. We know we still have a long way to go in the City of Wolverhampton but hopefully our reflections and actions, that have had a clear impact locally, will inspire others to follow similar paths for their own areas.

Look at where social care sits in our investment strategy in Wolverhampton.

Also check out the recently published Skills for Care report on the Economic Value of the Social Care Sector in England

If you want to discuss with us in greater detail how we have brought about these changes and have reframed the place of social care as a positive economic contributor, please do get in touch.

David Watts – Director of Adult Services

Brendan Clifford – Service Director


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