How can social care tackle its image problem?

  • Social care has an image problem. There doesn't seem to be a week that goes by without the unsavoury revelations of another hidden camera or the revelations of another whistleblowing care worker.

    But ask the vast majority of the 1.8 million people that work in the care sector, cumulatively the country's biggest employer, and you'll get a much more positive response.

    Why does the sector find it such a struggle to, even if it's just on the odd occasion, lift its head above the parapet?

    Whether it's a prospectus for a care home, a training guide for care workers or a government policy document, there's one striking consistency that is so expected of the sector that it goes totally unnoticed: wherever a care worker is photographed, they are hunched over in "care pose". Care workers are always pictured at a lower level to service users.

    Subtle as this may seem, this diminished status in the way care professionals are portrayed subliminally contributes to the diminished status with which the outside world considers the sector.

    The second thing we noticed is that, unlike other sectors, the care sector has no one organisation or organising principle that you can point to as an identifiable provider of leadership.

    The care sector is highly fragmented, with tens of thousands of private operators that deliver the service, a myriad of professional organisations that advise them, and a plethora of NGOs that contribute to thought leadership. Subsequently there are no signature names that the outside world can turn to as the recognised flag bearers for the sector, just as there's no recognisable hypothesis on what makes good social care. This void not only creates a lack of leadership but a sense of enigma that all too quickly leads to suspicion.

    Perhaps, though, the biggest contributor to the poor image of the care sector is the difficulty consumers have in buying the service.

    If you've ever found yourself in the position where you have to move an older parent into a care home, you'll have doubtless experienced how difficult it can be to make a choice. That's partly because social care is a subject most of us aren't used to assessing, and partly because there are no consistent criteria to enable a comparative assessment.

    The ability to compare, based on both rational and emotional criteria, is the foundation stone of consumerism and yet the care sector, which sells a product every one of us will need to buy in some form at some point in our lives, is seemingly incapable of creating a means of consistent comparative evaluation.

    Care doesn't go wrong because evil people do evil things, it goes wrong where unmotivated people don't think beyond the checklist of tasks they've been handed.

    Care is an occupation where the outcome is more dependent on how you go about the task than the delivery of the task itself. If the sector can get behind the notion that it's the human factor, the 'how' care is delivered that's important to people, it can create a simple stance on which to base a consistent argument: the basis of a better image; not a low status sector that people feel embarrassed to work in, but a proud and professional vocation that provides the backbone for the wellbeing of our country.

    Read full artice: The Guardian Social Care Network




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