Recently I have been working on the development of some training modules specifically for the social care sector. Not having been involved with this area before, I found it quite challenging on a personal level. I have been both appalled and inspired by stories that I have heard first hand from people working in this sector.

In particular, I have been working closely with those involved in caring for people living with dementia – a disease which is the condition most feared by people over 55. Rightly so, when you see the staggeringly high statistics for the numbers of dementia sufferers; one in three people aged over 65 today will develop this terrible condition.

Like many of us, I have been distressed by the reports of neglect and negligence in the care sector – Mid Staffordshire scandal, the findings of the Francis report, Winterbourne View – but I have also been moved to tears by stories of selfless commitment and exemplary care and compassion that I have heard from carers, whether family members or paid care workers.

Finding a better way

It has made me question though, why as a society, we seem to place such a low value on the care of our most vulnerable members, be that children or the frail and elderly. The employees in the care sector are amongst the most poorly paid in the country, and I am frequently told, often with very low levels of qualifications and standard of literacy.

The problems are then compounded since training provision for our social care workforce is patchy, poorly funded, and hugely variable in quality. Funding might be tight, but how much of that scarce money is being spent on ineffective provision? I would recommend reading two of Jane Hart’s recent blog postings which make some very useful and relevant observations and recommendations.

A shift in attitudes, and the ability to improve and develop skills in a more cost effective (and creative) way is something that also comes up in my discussions. I attended two major care conferences last month and saw too many examples of poor quality e-learning courses, which might ‘tick the box’ but I am sure would fail to make a useful difference to the learner.I wrote elsewhere recently about some research (Clarke, 2012) into training in the social care sector that raises on-going concerns around the achievement of training transfer. Estimates suggest that only about 50 percent of training effort results in any real behaviour change on the job. That is a lot of wasted investment of scarce resources.

There is a general consensus that doing the same isn’t going to work. We must ensure that any training course we are involved in is not going to be part of the 50 percent that fails to make a difference. If we thought the person receiving the training was going to be caring for us, or our loved ones, would we still think it is good enough? So as learning professionals, let’s truly commit to making a significant change to this and do everything we possibly can to help develop a professional, confident and highly-skilled social care workforce.