Thursday, 24 January 2013

Front Line Social Care Health & Well-Being

Ergonomics, occupational health, employee well-being. Probably familiar phrases if you are employed in a large organisation, in fact those larger organisations will usually have people employed specifically for occupational health to ensure the well-being of their employees. This is often supplemented, particularly in public sector organisations, by union representatives with specific roles in promoting workplace well-being.

Smaller organisations, generally, do not have any of this and 80% of social care is provided by smaller organisations.

Naturally the principle focus of social care is on those who use services yet in order to deliver those services we have to rely on front line workers and, unfortunately, little attention is paid to ensuring their health and well-being in performing such a vitally important role.

We need a wider focus on those who actually provide care in order to improve the quality of care as well as the quality of life for the workers the nation depends on.

For example, much is made of the 15 minute visit rightly maligned by many as inadequate for those who need care and support services. Yet how often is the effect it has on care workers? Simply imagine the stress of having to complete a visit in such a limited time, or, maybe, think about the pressure of travelling between visits. I am sure everyone has been in a situation where traffic delays get us frustrated as we try to get to an appointment, what impact would that frustration have to a person who then has to rush through a 15 minute visit before heading out onto the road again to get to the next?

What is the impact on the health and well-being on those who daily support those who have challenging behaviours?  What is the impact on the health and well-being on those who daily support those at the end of their lives? What is the impact on the health and well-being of those who daily support those need intense physical support? And, importantly, how does this affect the quality of care delivery?

It is not rocket science to know that how we feel, both physically and mentally, impacts on the way we work, no matter what our job is yet for front line social care it will also impact on those who receive care services.

It is not unusual to hear about the work-place stress on social workers who are becoming increasingly over-loaded in their work. We hear about it because the majority of social workers work for public sector organisations where such things are monitored both by the organisation and unions. What hear little about is the workload and stress of front line care workers because most are employed by small employers with little union representation across the sector.

Whenever those who set policy for social care, national Government or Local Authority, speak there always seems to be an assumption that social care is a public sector service and that it operates in the same way as public sector bodies and that those who work in social care are the same as any other public sector workers. The truth is that the vast majority of social care workers are employed by small, private sector companies who do not have the same ability as larger companies to employ people to manage occupational health.

If we are to ensure the health and well-being of those who need social care services then we have to also ensure the health and well-being of those who deliver those care services. To do so we need Government to recognise that the thousands of small companies that provide care services need support to be able to do this.