Innovation is about Reshaping Services not Cutting Costs
Some of the most exciting work I am involved with at present is research that has received UK Research and Innovation funding to develop innovative resources and products that will assist care home workers to stay healthy for longer. I believe that this work is vitally important as the social care workforce has an incredibly difficult job both physically and mentally and any measures that can be put into place to support them should be implemented where possible.
One of the best parts of this programme is that there is an intention to make sure that some of the ideas being generated come directly from the care home workforce and that they will be supported to bring these ideas to fruition. So many discussions and decisions that will impact social care staff take place amongst policymakers and social care stakeholders who are not delivering actual care services. This results in front-line workers often asking why they are not consulted more on these decisions that are being made and that directly affect them and how they carry out their roles. Care home staff are the experts in their field, they are the ones who work with individuals every day and night and are responsible for building vital relationships with people they care and support in order that care is provided in a manner that is appropriate for that specific person. It makes perfect sense that they would be hugely instrumental in deciding what measures will be easier to implement and what will be realistic to achieve.
My hope is that another benefit to this research is that it will open up other types of work opportunities and careers for care home staff and will attract new people into the social care sector. Social care roles often include using technology and digital devices that require the worker to have these additional skills and experience. Including them in discussions around how technology can be utilised effectively within social care settings is vital in order to ensure this approach is undertaken in a person led manner and takes into account human rights in the process. We have already seen fantastic examples of what can be achieved by care providers who recognise there is an issue or a gap in the social care system and create a solution to that. Many care homes will be implementing creative ideas and solutions at an organisational level that can be scaled up and implemented across the whole sector should they receive the support and funding needed to achieve this.
It is also important to address the perception that innovation is a cost-cutting measure and that services must work in innovative ways in order to make savings within the social care sector. This is absolutely not how innovation should be implemented and care organisations need the tools to challenge that narrative and state that if they are going to be innovative, which could come with cost savings in the longer term, this must be appropriately resourced and funded to achieve the positive changes that are needed and will benefit the workforce in years to come.
I am extremely excited to witness changes within the care home sector that will be developed collaboratively with the workforce to aid and support them in their roles and to ultimately shape the delivery of care and support services in the future.
Workforce Policy & Practice Lead