Putting people first in a social care market

The one thing for certain about the market for social care support is that it is wide and varied, with many different buyers and sellers.

Local government is a major purchaser, but it has less control over what is available to purchase as people funding their own care and support are influencing the supply of social care more and more.

This diverse social care market place is very different to the health care market where there is one principal buyer - Clinical Commissioning Groups - with an interlinked connection to its biggest suppliers - NHS Trusts. This market is supplemented by a number of smaller independent suppliers, funded in part by the principle buyer, and spot purchased by individual consumers.

But, what is common in both the health and the social care market is that the workforce is the biggest part of the costs of any employer. That's exactly why developing, influencing and commissioning the workforce has to be a core part of all commissioners and employer business activity.

What can commissioners and employers do?

Commissioners and employers need to have a good understanding of the skills, knowledge and availability of local workers. They need to know the answers to key factors like:

  • How far are people prepared to travel for work?
  • What influences where people decide to work?
  • What happens to people undertaking health and social care courses at local colleges?
  • How can employers and commissioners influence what students are learning?

Commissioners and employers also need to analyse their workforce needs and what the local workforce market looks like, and then plan what they intend to do to ensure they can access a supply of workers with the right knowledge and skills. It's about doing what needs to be done to make change happen, review progress and start again if needs be.

By actively seeking to shape the local workforce market commissioners and employers can be better placed to ensure that they have a range of workers available, and over time seek to lessen the impact of change in the workforce market.

Thinking differently about the needs of our fellow citizens is key, and so is developing new partnerships with different sectors. If you think about it bus timetables can have a significant influence on the local market for workers. Our National Minimum Data Set for Social Care suggests that on average frontline care and support workers live within five miles of their place of work. So working with local bus companies to change bus timetables can significantly impact on a care service's recruitment and retention. Bus timetables are one of the person-centred factors that commissioners should look at as part of their workforce commissioning strategy.

Analysing demographics

Demographics are another important consideration. By analysing demographic and public health data commissioners can look to target the shape of local care and support teams, and where the workforce that works in those teams might come from.

For example, is it necessary to replicate identical specialist teams across the whole of a local authority? If you have one part of the authority that has a low incidence of older people with specific care and support needs does the team specialising in those conditions need to be the same size and shape as a team covering an area where the incidence of older people with those specific care and support needs is much higher?

So to me it is clear that commissioners and employers who recognise and respond to specific workforce market considerations are more likely to successfully recruit and retain workers. The real beneficiaries of improved recruitment retention of workers with the right values are people who access care and other services who can then live the lives they want.

You can find out more about Skills for Care's resources on workforce commissioning and market shaping here.



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