The Care Certificate: a step in the right direction?

Care Certificate is a step on the right path for carer training, suggests report evaluation

An evaluation has found that the Care Certificate is a step in the right direction for training front-line carers, but that organisational size, leadership and resources determine its effectiveness

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Nurses have often been identified as central to concerns about care standards for older people in hospital and community settings. However, unregistered front-line carers are an increasingly important section of this workforce, delivering around twice as much direct and indirect patient care as registered nurses.

Skills gap

Despite this, unregistered carers’ training needs have often been neglected. This is often attributed to a skills gap in the front-line care workforce with absent or inadequate training and a tendency to focus on tasks and mandatory competencies. For example, in 2017, Skills for Care found that less than half (48%) of the adult social care workforce had a relevant qualification.

To address this, in 2013, the Cavendish Review called for the introduction of a certificate of fundamental care. To improve the safety and quality of care they provided, it was recommended that all new care workers in England should achieve this certificate before working unsupervised. The Care Certificate consists of a set of 15 standards designed to provide a consistent approach to the training and induction of care staff and a transferable qualification that supports their movement between organisations.

In 2016, the Department of Health commissioned a national evaluation of the Care Certificate to assess if it had improved care workers’ induction, training and job readiness, resulted in better care for patients and enhanced training provision and career development pathways offered by care organisations.

Evaluation methods included a telephone survey of 401 staff with responsibility for the induction of care workers. Interviews were also carried out with 68 care staff and 24 managers at ten different care organisations to gain a detailed understanding of their experiences of the training.

The introduction of Care Certificate training was widely welcomed for providing a standardised approach to improving the skills and confidence of those new to care. However, organisational size, leadership and resources determined its effectiveness.

Organisational differences

Where organisations had the resources to devote staff to develop the training or adapt it into their existing induction programmes, then the potential benefits of the Care Certificate were most likely to be reported. However, smaller organisations such as independent care homes and home care providers often struggled with the process of implementation, largely due to lack of resources and support.

The high levels of staff turnover often experienced in these settings could reduce the incentive for employers to invest in staff training.

Although the Care Certificate is a step in the right direction for training front-line carers, the contextual factors that can facilitate or undermine its impact must also be recognised and addressed.

About the author

Elaine Argyle is a research and evaluation consultant based at the Institute of Mental Health in Nottingham, and was the project manager for the national evaluation of the Care Certificate, which was commissioned and funded by the NIHR policy research programme.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author.

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