A decade of cuts has set back diversity in the public sector | Jane Dudman | Society | The Guardian

Ian Thomas is used to tough jobs. The former children’s services director at Rotherham council is now chief executive of Lewisham, a London borough facing huge financial pressure, including a £15.6m overspend on children’s services.

Only two areas of public service better reflect the UK population: social work and the NHS. Latest figures show that around one-fifth of social workers and NHS staff are from BAME backgrounds, although given that 42% of medics are not white, diversity in non-clinical NHS jobs is very much lower.

The lack of diversity is even more acute at senior levels. Judges, senior civil servants, chief constables and NHS chief executives are still predominantly white. In local government, according to last year’s Colour of Power report, none of the 108 chief executives of England’s largest councils was a BAME person.


Source: A decade of cuts has set back diversity in the public sector | Jane Dudman | Society | The Guardian

Social care needs strong leaders – but where will they come from?

Original post from The Guardian

‘…………….By Kate Murray

With demand for services rising but resources shrinking, the social care system is under strain, and needs talented leaders and managers to face those challenges

 With only 12% of the care workforce under 25, the sector needs to do more to attract younger workers keen to progress. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

With only 12% of the care workforce under 25, the sector needs to do more to attract younger workers keen to progress. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images/Maskot

If it’s at times of crisis that true leaders shine, then there could be no better moment to focus on the leadership that social care needs. For, with demand for services rising but resources shrinking, the social care system is under strain as never before. In the past five years, funding cuts, combined with the impact of the ageing population, have effectively wiped out 31% of the local authority social care budget across England.

It’s a situation, according to Adass (the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services), which is putting older and vulnerable people in jeopardy, at the very time when the Care Act has introduced new requirements for joined-up health and social care.

At a roundtable event, organised by the Guardian and sponsored by workforce development organisation Skills for Care, social care professionals discussed how best to secure the strong leadership social care will require as it faces these challenges.

At the table

  • David Brindle (Chair) Public services editor, the Guardian
  • Sharon Allen Chief executive, Skills for Care
  • Pete Calveley Chief executive, Barchester Healthcare
  • Michelle Dudderidge Director, Hand in Hands
  • Shaks Ghosh Chief executive, Clore Social Leadership Programme
  • Patrick Vernon Project coordinator, Health Partnership Project, National Housing Federation
  • Martin Green Chief executive, Care England
  • Ray James President, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services in England
  • Des Kelly Executive director, National Care Forum
  • John Kennedy Director of care services, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • Neil Matthewman Chief executive, Community Integrated Care
  • John Ransford Non-executive director, HC-One
  • Jon Glasby Professor of health and social care, University of Birmingham
  • Bridget Warr Chief executive, UK Home Care Association

There was a recognition from participants that there were some great leaders in social care – but that there was room for improvement, too.

As Pete Calveley, chief executive of Barchester Healthcare, put it, when only 40% of nursing homes with more than 50 beds inspected are considered to be good or outstanding, “that does reflect on the leadership of organisations”. He added: “It is very easy for us to lay the blame on the facility manager when actually we all need to take responsibility.”

Jon Glasby, professor of health and social care at the University of Birmingham, said the sector was well-led – but often in spite of the systems in place rather than because of them. He said:

“One of the major successes is the way social care and local authorities in particular have managed in spite of the cuts they have had to face. Many other services would have been unable to function … I do think we could do more to support some of those leaders.”

John Ransford, non-executive director at care home provider HC-One, also paid tribute to “the sheer adaptability” of leaders in social care. “They have done incredible things with the resources they have,” he said. “My worry is that they will always be expected to do more – that in a sense the sector is a victim of its own success as it has become more efficient and adaptable.”

According to Neil Matthewman, chief executive of Community Integrated Care, a charity providing care services in England and Scotland, nurturing leaders at middle management level is a particular challenge. His experience since joining the social care sector from the NHS was that many managers were not “outward-looking” enough. On the other hand, he added, social care offered the chance for more creativity. “Entering this sector, I’ve found there’s been more opportunity to show genuine leadership,” he said.

Many participants at the event highlighted the need to focus on developing the registered manager role – a key post responsible for the management of care homes and services. Des Kelly, executive director of the National Care Forum, said:

“All the evidence we have is that the quality of the service is absolutely determined by the quality of that individual. But pay rates are nowhere near where they should be for people who are expected to have such a range of responsibilities. It’s a very difficult job.”

The event also heard concerns about developing leaders in smaller care providers, where both resources and time for training are often tight. Michelle Dudderidge, director of specialist provider Hand in Hands, said:

“It’s really important for us to adapt to the changes that happen daily in social care, but one of the biggest issues for us is the finances to be able to develop our staff into good leaders.”

So what are the ways forward for developing effective leaders for these challenging times? Participants had a range of ideas, from developing a professional route for registered managers, to working with the health service to develop leadership training for the new integrated way of working, but with a distinct focus on social care.

There was support for the new concept of the care practitioner to ease nursing shortages in the care sector, while Patrick Vernon, from the National Housing Federation, also flagged up the idea of more collaboration between health, social care and housing. He said:

“You might work in the NHS, you might work in care, you might work in a housing association. How do we make sure those roles are fluid so you can move from one to another?”

More widely, the event heard, efforts needed to be made to encourage new recruits into the social care sector so that it could develop a new generation of leaders. As Kelly put it, only 12% of the care workforce is under 25, with that proportion falling, while 50% of the workforce is over 45, a proportion that’s rising. He said:

“We’ve got to get better at attracting younger people – I don’t think we do the services justice in terms of the opportunities there are to get trained and move up the ladder … Yes they start poorly paid, but there are opportunities.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, an umbrella group for care providers, advocated a civil service style, fast-track scheme for new entrants. But he said a more open culture was also crucial. “One of our challenges is to have a culture that allows people to be experimental,” he said.

“That won’t work if it’s about blame when you get it wrong. The way you are monitored is very much about whether you did it right or did it wrong when we should be saying: ‘You might have got it wrong, but you didn’t divert from the values and culture’, which are the original values of social care.”

The importance of values was stressed, too, by Sharon Allen, chief executive of Skills for Care. The idea of a person-centred approach should apply to the people who work in the sector as well as those it supports, she said.

“We need to ensure what we do is inspiring people with clarity and purpose about how to improve social care. We need to address the problems we face – but also to celebrate the great people who are going to make a difference.”

Bridget Warr, chief executive of the UK Homecare Association, agreed. She said an open culture would help promote the innovation that is now so desperately needed across social care.

“What we know for sure is that we need to do things differently because we can’t go on the way were before,” she said. “We can’t just keep squeezing and still give people a decent service.”

John Kennedy, director of care services at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said social care itself did not lack leadership, rather there was a “distinct lack of political leadership”. “Other industries have a voice at the top table when policy is being decided, but with social care that doesn’t happen,” he said.

Perhaps a more unified voice for the social care sector would increase the status of working – and leading – in the sector. But so too would a more profound shift in the mindset of society as a whole.

As Kennedy put it: “We can all imagine ourselves getting ill but we don’t seem to want to put ourselves in that frail place. The recipients of healthcare are seen as ‘us’ and the recipients of social care are ‘them’. We need to get over that.”

That kind of culture change might help tap into some of the potential that participants saw in social care. For Shaks Ghosh, chief executive of the Clore Social Leadership Programme, a key role for leaders was to identify and unleash the innovators of the future. She said:

Ray James, director of health, housing and adult social care at Enfield council and president of Adass, said although social care faced huge challenges, he saw more examples of values-based leadership in the sector than in any other sphere. He concluded: “It’s in that authentic, values-based leadership that the success of the sector in the future lies.”

This content has been sponsored by Skills for Care (whose brand it displays). All content is editorially independent. Contact: Stacey-Rebekka Karlsson. For information on debates visit theguardian.com/sponsored-content 


Revealed: how the stress of working in public services is taking its toll on staff

Original post from The Guardian

‘………..By , ,

NHS staff are the least likely of all public sector workers to take a break during the day. Photograph: Edward Mccain/Getty Images
NHS staff are the least likely of all public sector workers to take a break during the day. Photograph: Edward Mccain/Getty Images

“Reduced budgets, reduced staff members, higher caseloads and more red tape … You are always struggling just to keep up.” That is one heartfelt comment from a survey by the Guardian that reveals the huge toll government cuts are taking on staff in public services and the voluntary sector.

The Clockoff survey, conducted last month, asked about the wellbeing of employees across the voluntary sector and public services. More than 3,700 people, in jobs ranging from social work to police and probation, from social housing to the NHS, charities and NGOs, took part online via the Guardian’s professional networks.

A clear picture emerges of staff working long hours, with few breaks, and a workforce that has become wearily resigned to this way of working. When asked, ​do you think stress is a fact of life for employees in the public or voluntary sector, 85% of respondents say they agree. For respondents working in probation services the figure rises to 100%.

Some 93% of respondents say they are stressed at work either all, some, or a lot of the time. Of the 9% who say they are stressed all of the time at work, almost all report working beyond their contracted hours. On average, respondents put in an extra seven hours a week. Close on one in five say they don’t take any break during their working day, with less than a quarter (24%) enjoying a main break of at least 30 minutes.

It is clear that cuts are having a sustained impact on workloads. Social workers, for instance, report having more work to do, but not only are there fewer staff to deal with cases, cuts to voluntary bodies also mean there are fewer external support services for children and families. “The phrase ‘doing more with less’ is not only an offence against physics, it is the frontline workers who bear this ever-increasing load,” says one social worker. “When the captain says faster the oarsmen are the ones whose labour is increased.” She adds: “I suffer with insomnia caused by my employer and I am being treated for anxiety and depression.”

NHS staff are the most likely of all public sector workers to feel stressed because of their job, according to the survey results. More than 60% say they feel stressed all or most of the time, and 59% say they feel more stressed this year than last year.

The survey also reveals that NHS workers are the least likely to take a break during a working day. Just over a quarter (26%) don’t take a break at all, and only around one in 10 takes more than half an hour. And the large majority of NHS workers (96%) work beyond their contracted hours, doing an average of five extra hours per week.

It is not just those in clinical roles who are feeling the pressure. A ward clerk supervisor, who has had to take time off work because stress levels had exacerbated an existing mental health condition, says: “So-called efficiency savings have resulted in remaining staff being overloaded – particularly those who aren’t frontline like administrators and secretaries.” One senior manager admits: “I feel I can’t help my team or myself more to cope and adapt to change and pressure.”

The findings come as David Cameron, the prime minister, promises to transform the NHS into a seven day-a-week universal health service.

Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, says: “Frontline work in the NHS is rewarding but it can be emotionally and physically challenging, so it’s vital those staff have the right support. The culture in the NHS has improved demonstrably and there is more specialist support. But we cannot be complacent as progress is uneven and the NHS must keep innovating to meet ever-growing demand on its services.”

While NHS staff are the most stressed, other sectors are not far behind: 58% of local government staff, including social workers, 51% of central government employees and 46% of charity workers report being stressed all or most of the time.

Jo Cleary, chair of the College of Social Work, says continuing funding reductions are taking an unbearable toll on social workers. “Our members report juggling highly complex workloads, with little time to reflect and plan their work. Putting this kind of pressure on social workers, while expecting them to do complex, delicate work with some of the most vulnerable people in our society, is dangerous. We also risk deterring people from staying in social work, or even entering the profession in the first place. We are very clear on this: social work needs greater investment from government as an immediate priority.”

On a more positive note, two-thirds of respondents believe the work they do in the public or voluntary sector is always or often worthwhile, and 40% think their contribution is always or often valued. Many staff working for campaigning NGOs, for example, who despite working an average of nine extra hours a week are among the least stressed in our survey, say that they actively choose to work long hours because it gives them a sense of purpose. But respondents warn that this sense of duty can be taken advantage of and many report being asked to do more and more work.

Sally Cupitt, head of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ charities evaluation services says: “We must do our best to make sure staff feel supported and valued in their work. A small amount of stress can be a good thing, but sustained or excessive stress can be damaging to health and wellbeing. Charities should adopt employee wellbeing policies wherever possible, such as employee assistance programmes and flexible working options.”

The survey shows that stress at work is taking its toll on people’s health and wellbeing. Poor sleep, headaches, stress-related mental health issues and even digestive problems are among a range of physical and psychological symptoms reported by respondents, 39% of whom have sought medical advice or counselling.

Asked how people try to reduce their stress levels outside of work, most say they relax by spending more time either alone or with friends and family; around45% exercise, catch up on sleep, or watch TV. Worryingly, 28% report drinking more.

Commenting on the survey findings, a Local Government Association spokesman says: “Councils are taking steps to adopt flexible working practices where possible because they know they help build a more engaged workforce, attract the best talent and increase productivity.”

The Cabinet Office says its own People Survey of more than 274,000 civil servants paints a very different picture. “Staff engagement continues to rise and 81% of respondents said their manager is considerate of their life outside work”, says a spokesman.Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, which represents many public sector workers, says spending cuts, attacks on pay and pensions and mass redundancies have had a huge effect on a demoralised public sector workforce. : “This survey lays bare the damage cuts have had on frontline services, with staff regularly overworked, stressed and unable to do their jobs as they would like.” Public servants have understandably had enough and many are rightly fearful of the new round of austerity the government is about to unleash in its July budget.” She warns that if the government continues to treat public servants as second-class citizens, it will struggle to hold on to and recruit the skilled, dedicated staff needed to deliver public services. “When that happens, we all pay the price.”

In their own words

“Excessive stress in child protection social work is commonplace. Over the past six years it has affected my physical and mental health at times, placed a strain on personal relationships, led me to question my choice of profession, and frequently leaves me tired, exhausted, emotionally drained and overwhelmed. I’m stressed a lot of the time and the stress has increased over the past year. I was seconded to a new post which lacked clarity and effective management oversight. I was given additional responsibilities without a reduction in my previous, already overwhelming day-to-day responsibilities. Senior management was poor and chaotic. I had to spend months fighting to be paid appropriately for my level of responsibility.

“The public sector is being destroyed by ever-increasing cuts to funding. Alongside this there is an ever-increasing demand for services from my department specifically (children and families), yet there is no money provided for more staff. We are also affected by funding cuts to services we rely on to assist in supporting the families we work with. What would help? Investment in social work, local authority social work receiving the appropriate funding to ensure there are adequate staffing levels, which are proportionate to the demand for service.” Social worker

I’ve lost weight as I miss at least three meals a week. I suffer from constipation, piles, insomnia [and am] constantly exhausted. I constantly feel I haven’t done my best but it’s impossible to do it all.” Midwife

“The number of people working here has been slashed but the workload has not. There is a lack of trust of the workforce and flexibility from the management. It feels like they are expecting more and more but giving less and less. The government has contributed to the perception of the public sector workforce as being lazy and money-grabbing. There have been many changes in the organisation and no one has any certainty or job security despite permanent contracts.” Local government development officer

“I got very stressed around Christmas and new year, when I was working completely on my own with 14 young people to support, no one to offload on to and as a result my own mental health was suffering. I was signed off work for two weeks in January after constantly bursting into tears, not sleeping and just not feeling like my usual happy self.” Social housing professional

“A lot more strain has been put on the voluntary sector due to cuts in other areas. We have seen an increase in the amount of vulnerable people we see weekly. Because there are gaps in services, we are expected to fulfil a need, in fact lots of different needs. As cuts increase, these gaps will increase and I fear that we cannot adequately meet the needs of some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our society, which is hard to take.” Charity project worker

“The public sector is the victim of large-scale cuts and austerity. While the cash impact of this might be significant, the combined low feeling of motivation and self-worth is stressful, as is making up for missing or stretched colleagues and the government continues to demand more.” Central government regional director   ………’