A Lost CARE badge?

Richard Banks, Residential Forum member writes:

Today (Wednesday 6 May 2020) it is three weeks since Matt Hancock the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care announced the department was taking over the CARE badge.

This badge will be a badge of honour in a very real sense, allowing social care staff proudly and publicly to identify themselves, just like NHS staff do with that famous blue and white logo.[1]

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The announcement was part of the ‘COVID 19: Our Action Plan for Adult Social Care’ (Para 2.39). So far, the effect of the take over by the Department of Health and Social Care is that the CARE badge is not available.  This seems odd since the CARE badge was, up until then, quite successful and the takeover had no start up or production issues to be dealt with. It has been available since July 2019 with more than 100,000 already distributed via social care employers.

The CARE badge is welcome – as a step towards recognition of the importance of social care staff. It was positive that the Department of Health and Social Care wanted to own the badge, as a going concern, and give it greater importance and visibility.  A larger number of social care staff would be able to get one and would now be recognised alongside NHS staff.

Or so we were told by the Secretary of State – but this social care asset has, so far, been lost to the workforce The original organisation distributing the badge have stopped doing so – by agreement with the government – and there is nowhere to get the badges now.

Enquiries to the Department of Health and Social Care about how to get the badges are unanswered.

A sodding badge’

At the time of the announcement by Matt Hancock there were this and other negative comments. To many these comments seemed unnecessarily sour. The CARE badge is useful to staff working in social care now and should be the part of the much-heralded recognition breakthrough for social care after the virus crisis.

The sour responses are more about what social care has been missing for several months – PPE, testing and proper access to heath services for all using and working in residential care and home care services.  This poor support to social care follows on from staff having been under recognised and underpaid for decades.  So people should be forgiven for thinking that the CARE badge might feel like an empty gesture.

As said the CARE badge is not new it was developed by everLIFE technologies (who operate the ‘Pass’ planning and monitoring systems) and Care England (who represent larger residential care organisations). The National Care Forum  (who represent not for profit care organisations) joined in and a Community Interest Company was formed. [2] The ‘CARE’ badge was launched in June 2019 it was reported in February 2020 that 100,000 badges had been distributed.

The background:

The CARE badge is now part of the governments ‘Covid-19: Our action Plan for Adult Social Care’ released on 15 April and is part of attempts to recognise the importance of the social care workforce in England.
There is history associated to the idea of a social care badge but more importantly there is a long history of Government inaction to support the social care workforce.

Just two points, among many, illustrate this:

Government in England has failed to establish any sort of plan for the social care workforce. In 2018 the Governments’ own National Audit Office produced a report “The adult social care workforce in England”.
The report introduction said about the Department of Health & Social Care’s role in overseeing the adult social care workforce.

Social care cannot continue as a Cinderella service – without a valued and rewarded workforce, adult social care cannot fulfil its crucial role of supporting elderly and vulnerable people in society.  Pressures and demands on the health and social care systems are increasing, so the Department needs to respond quickly to this challenge by giving the sector the attention it deserves and needs, instead of falling short and not delivering value for money.

There has been no government action on the report’s findings.

The second point is about the registration of social care staff.  In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland they clearly see registration as an important part of establishing social care work as a valued professional activity.  Sadly in England social care has remained as incorrectly described as low skill and sadly low pay occupation not worthy of proper recognition through registration.  The legislation to start registration was passed in 2000 but no English government has progressed this.

These failings are specific to workforce policy but sadly social care has also suffered deliberate cuts and a vacuum in overall policy making. A Green Paper on social care was originally promised for the summer of 2017 – there have been multiple promises of a release date – it has yet to arrive.

When and if available again the CARE badge joins a list of several membership and awareness-based campaigns for social care.  That list would include the ‘One in a million’ badge that was part of a campaign to increase awareness, (and recruitment) of social care.  There are now close to 1.5 million social care workers in England further supported by as many as 8.8 million unpaid carers looking after family members and friends in homes.  Then there was the Social Care Commitment and Driving Up Quality – both well founded initiatives but quietly dropped with changes of ministers. There was also the more meaningful Social Care Association membership and badge – more meaningful because membership of the association required the wearer to adopt and following of a code of practice. Unfortunately, the Social Care Association eventually closed in 2012 after erosion of social care training budgets and after over a decade of muddled support to professional infrastructures in both adult and children’s social care including the failed General Social Care Council.

Learning

It may well be that the learning from this is that when the social care sector develop something for themselves they ought to maintain control.  Something the Residential Forum has done for 30 years now.

An important and very welcome development is the National Association of Care & Support Workers (NACAS) [3] This is an organisation run by social care staff promoting professional standards and development opportunities. Members follow a Code of Ethics and Conduct. Full voting membership is only open to social care workers.  This seems to offer a better way forward to social care workers than relying on the vague and undelivered promises of the Department for Health and Social Care. Perhaps they should be given the mislaid CARE badge.

[1] Matt Hancock the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/health-and-social-care-secretarys-statement-on-coronavirus-covid-19-15-april-2020

[2] https://www.thecarebadge.org/

[3] https://nacas.co.uk/

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