Last reviewed 28 January 2020
Recruitment and retention of staff is a challenge for everyone working in the health and social care sector and is destined to increase. Deborah Bellamy looks at the role of the I Care…Ambassador and how they can help care services.
As the demand for care and support rises, the need to recruit and retain more workers to deliver high quality care continues to grow.
Skills for Care has forecast if the adult social care workforce grows proportionally to the projected number of people aged 65 and over in the population between 2016 and 2030, an increase of 31% more staff will be required by 2030.
This equates to an additional 500,000 people to fulfil this need, which seems daunting bearing in mind this is an ongoing issue.
Becoming involved with I Care…Ambassadors may provide a route for some existing staff to expand their skills and roles to inspire others to work in health and social care, supporting organisations to find new ways of recruiting and retaining the right staff.
What are I Care…Ambassadors?
Developed as a concept by Skills for Care, an independent charity who work as a delivery partner for the Department of Health and Social Care as well as health and housing and are the membership organisation for registered managers.
I Care…Ambassadors (ICAs) can become any level of frontline staff.
They are enthusiastic individuals willing to share their experiences with others who may not have previously considered a role within this sector. The aim is to help people to gain a better understanding about working in health and social care, dispel the negative myths which may be associated with the sector and promote opportunities that a career in care can offer.
Skills for Care also supports ICA partnerships to develop an integrated approach to promoting careers to include health colleagues.
What do they do?
Those who work within the health and social care sector are aware that there is no such thing as being “just a carer” and know the importance for both existing staff and those new to the sector to understand the breadth of skills needed.
ICAs may visit schools, colleges and Jobcentres to run a range of careers activities including talks, presentations, interactive group activities, being in charge of an information stand, mentoring, job fairs, media activities, and supporting a workplace visit or placement helping people make informed decisions about their careers.
What are the benefits for staff who become I Care…Ambassadors?
Those who become ICAs are able to:
develop confidence and presentation skills
support their career progression
identify training or shadowing opportunities
promote a positive image of health and social care
There are no set rules about undertaking a certain number of activities or attending meetings, as there is an awareness of the pressures faced and this is not intended to be an additional burden.
They would not attend sessions alone and are supported to develop their confidence and skills through a buddying system. If they feel comfortable speaking in smaller groups or 1:1 then they can indicate this on the portal when they sign up and will have the resources or publicity materials provided.
Some areas have developed discussion forums where ICAs, careers guidance workers, Health and Social Care teachers and other relevant professionals can share and discuss ideas for effectively promoting social care careers.
As a local employer, this provides an opportunity to strengthen links within the community and showcase your organisation to schools, colleges and employment agencies which can provide an effective platform to promote your organisation.
The ICA initiative indicates good practice and validates your organisation as a quality employer who invests in staff development.
Organisations can also use the I Care…Ambassadors branding on their website and resources.
Retaining and keeping staff motivated can be an issue and anything to help with this might be worth considering as one in four people became more interested in a career in care having heard from an ambassador. This could encourage potential care workers to join your organisation, helping to reduce marketing and recruitment costs.
As a means of improving and maintaining staff morale, ICA activity can help with enhanced job satisfaction and may be a non-monetary way of reflecting on and showing appreciation of members of staffs’ skills and expertise.
Skills for Care published research (Recruitment and Retention in Adult Social Care: Secrets of Success. Learning from Employers What Works Well, May 2017) which found that among employers with low staff turnover rates, the things that make a difference did not necessarily cost organisations more but could have a positive impact on potential candidates and existing employees.
Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that staff turnover is an influencing factor in organisations obtaining favourable ratings from the CQC, so any staff retention tools could be of positive benefit to support CQC inspections, demonstrating provider engagement and integrated ways of working.
Helping recruit and retain staff
With around 440,000 care workers leaving each year, recruiting people with the right values and behaviours to fit in with organisational culture and who are more likely to stay is of major benefit to the organisation, so the ICA route may help provide an additional approach to attract candidates from the local community.
Skills for Care data has shown that hearing from an ambassador can make a real difference to those looking for career information and this is demonstrated by an increase in more young people and adults being interested in a career in care.
ICAs offer opportunities to engage with those from secondary schools onwards to challenge misconceptions and attract more young people with the right values into care, as currently only 10% of the adult social care workforce are under 25.
Access to resources and support
If you would prefer to speak to others before signing up, many areas host meetings where you can go along as a guest to become familiar with the ambassador role and introduce the range of resources available.
Once registered, a login is given which grants access to various resources, such as tips on how to use social media, posters and leaflets. You can expect to attend your first few events with an experienced ambassador who will mentor you and there are often opportunities for learning and development.
Clients such as teachers and careers advisors can use the online Search Register and make contact with the service co-ordinator to request ICA support at an event. You will not be contacted directly from organisations as the co-ordinator will email out to ICAs registered locally to ask appropriate ambassadors if they are available to deliver different activities.
What do I need to consider as a manager?
As this is voluntary activity supported by employing organisations, think about resource implications of releasing staff, travel costs and the capacity to sustain this. Do your staff have access to the internet and email so they can keep up to date?
If considering joining as part of an integrated partnership (social and health employers), further information is available on the integrated promotion of care careers page.
How do I know if it has been a success?
As well as tangible effects such as staff feedback and potential increased numbers of staff being recruited, data is collected after events have been covered by ICAs and Skills for care reports.
You can access the I Care…About Impact tool which enables you to gather feedback on your activity. You can download reports and graphs to show the impact your ambassadors are having, which may be used as supplementary evidence for CQC inspections.
How do I start?
By logging onto Skills for Care: www.skillsforcare.org.uk, you can find a form to register and a guide to help you join I Care…Ambassadors as an individual employer.
Alternatively, you can contact your local area’s Skills for Care locality manager and find their details at www.skillsforcare.org.uk/inyourarea.
If you think your organisation or staff might benefit from joining the national team and have the commitment to do so, it may be worth considering. If you want to look into this further before committing, then Skills for Care locality managers can signpost you to local meetings to find out more before signing up.