Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Social Value and Social Care

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Perhaps you wanted to be a train driver or a nurse, maybe you wanted to be a famous sports star or singer, or even, possibly, you wanted to be a princess or a pirate.

The chances are that the idea of being a social care worker did not enter your head.

Then as you got older and you discovered your talents and abilities your dreams will have changed, more professional ambitions may have come to mind, accountancy, medicine, architect, law etc. Perhaps, you were more vocationally minded, and liked the idea of a more hands on job, beauty therapist, mechanic, hairdresser, electrician etc.

The chances are that the idea of being a social care worker did not enter your head.

The fact that social care is well down the list of career choices is also backed up by the facts. The Skills for Care National Minimum Data Set (NMDS) shows that 60% of social care workers are aged 35 or over with just 10% under the age of 24. Social care is a job that people enter into later in life.

The issue with social care is how we value it in society and even though they provide essential front line services for vulnerable people, social care workers are low on social value.

Part of the issue is invisibility in society. Yes we have seemingly endless negative reporting, but generally speaking adult social care only becomes important to individuals when they, or a loved one, needs care services. In popular media social care is often portrayed negatively and infrequently, when fictional programmes portray social care as either inefficient or outright failing. Even where we have had mainstream fiction about care (i.e. Waiting for God) the care staff were not portrayed particularly well.

High social value needs positive role models through mainstream media and fiction often carries more weight than factual programmes. Fiction carries archetypes that embed themselves in social awareness (you’d be surprised how many people think the ‘medieval’ stories of King Arthur are true!) and in order to raise the social value of social care we need more positive archetypes of social care work portrayed through fiction.

That does not mean that non-fiction media doesn’t have a role to play. We increasingly need positive social care stories to underpin the social value of social care. Unfortunately the mainstream media seems adverse to the positive side of social care, which is strange as more and more of their viewers/readers will need social care services or know someone who needs social care services and the relaying of the negative horror stories and experiences, that are not suffered by the majority of care users, undermine the whole system. Yes it is important that these are exposed yet the overall impact has a detrimental effect and probably puts a lot of people off the idea of working in social care.

Social care is important in today’s (and tomorrow’s) society. Increasing longevity combined with a larger population means that social care services are needed more than ever before and more and more people are needed to provide that care. We need to raise the social value of social care, raise awareness in society of social cares importance in society and we need positive role models to encourage people to consider a career in social care.