Q) Last year, the Social Care Registration Board had just been appointed and SCI were moving towards becoming a company limited by guarantee. What's next?
Following on from the Social Care Ireland (SCI) conference last year, SCI is well underway to becoming a company limited by guarantee. We are also applying for charitable status for the new company and we are awaiting feedback regarding the status of our application, and we should know more in a few weeks. We now have the company directorship in place, which will consist of representatives from each of the social care managers, educators and workers’ groups. Personally, I’m very happy that the company will be formed. Ultimately SCI will be on a more solid footing to represent social care workers in Ireland.
SCI also launched and developed our new and improved website on the Thursday of the SCI conference and I would strongly recommend social care workers and stakeholders to look at it. There is a significant CPD focus on the website and there is a CPD members’ area in addition to SCI endorsed CPD courses and dates. Membership of Social Care Ireland is now open and there is a wealth of benefits made available to members as part of their annual fee. Primarily, there is support and management of their CPD portfolio. Members will also avail of Fitness to Practice insurance cover, deemed as an essential insurance for any profession regulated by CORU.
Q) There was a great crowd at the SCI conference over the past two days. Is that proof that SCI is moving in the right direction or was it simply down to the easily accessible venue?
The venue and the increased profile of Social Care Ireland contributed to the excellent turnout at the conference this year. The venue was excellent and was easily accessible from Dublin and other regions. Social Care Ireland and its various arms have been on a journey for the last few years, with a significant amount of tracti
on built up. There is significant movement within the sector and we were delighted to see the maximum amount of attendees at the conference.
Q) You spoke previously of protecting the Social Care Worker title. Is this still a priority for you?
The issue around the protection of the Social Care Worker (SCW) title is a very contentious issue at present. CORU are charged with protecting the public by ensuring best practice by SCWs. Will they have role a role to play with other titles such as care assistant, or night-sitter for example? Will CORU regulate professionals working as Social Care Workers in all aspects but called something else, such as a project worker or nightsitter? SCI believe that it’s imperative that CORU and the statutory agencies (Tusla, HIQA) work together to ensure that the board protects the public by including all those who are working as social care workers (irrespective of title).
Q) Denise Lyons spoke of a culture developing where SCWs being assaulted in the workplace is both commonplace and acceptable. Is this part and parcel of the job or can measures be put in place to ensure the safety of both the clients and staff?
No doubt violence does play a part of life in some and not all Social Care Workers. That’s not to say violence should be condoned in any shape or form. Young people displaying unmet needs and pain based behaviours can result in violence and we need to redouble our efforts to understand the underlying, unmet needs which will require our full focus. Violence will always be a feature of working with vulnerable people but we should not allow violence to become acceptable.
Q) There seems to be a lot of confusion around the issue of the sleepover rate and backpay. Where does the issue stand at present?
Regarding the sleepover rate, the questions raised in the Labour Court have still not been resolved. I hope for a speedy outcome to be implemented across the social care sector for all concerned. Initially the issue was brought against Tusla by IMPACT and we must await the outcome before we can respond appropriately.
Q) HIQA and R&I appear to cause considerable consternation with some social care workers. What are your thoughts on the work that these organisations carry out?
Indeed, there have been some negativity with people’s experiences with HIQA and R&I but a lot is anecdotal. I wouldn’t disparage either organisation. The system is designed to be quite critical of a wide spectrum of practice, procedure and policy. Inspectors will be quite critical and human nature as it is means that it may sometimes be taken personally rather than professionally. It can be difficult to remain objective when you’re working sixty hours a week and somebody comes in and is critical of your work. HIQA, the R&I and the Tusla Monitoring Officers have brought in transparency. For example, our centres are open at all times to be inspected. Certainly, the culture in Ireland has changed and the scandals which plagued our country in the past would not be permitted now.
Q) You also mentioned last year that too many social care courses are churning out too many graduates for not enough jobs. Several recruitment agencies we spoke with mentioned the difficulty in finding high quality social care workers for organisations. What contributes to this? Is a level 7 degree enough or are we moving towards a point where level 8 will be the minimum qualification?
Social Care Ireland recommend that level 8 Applied Social Studies degree is the minimum qualification. In order to futureproof the integrity of the sector, a significant amount of staff will fall under the grandfathering rule but in five to ten years, we would like to see level 8 as the minimum qualification to enter the sector. Further to this, we would also like to see an increase in student placements to three. The number of hours should be increased to 1000 hours from the 700 – 800 hours at present. We would also like student placements adequately supervised by tutors who are also eligible for registration with CORU, ie a social care worker. Are there too many graduates? CORU have a responsibility to monitor and manage the quality of social care worker graduates. If you look at CORU’s website, you can see the draft proficiency standards and if the above measures are implemented, then the quality will increase and the number of graduates will decrease naturally over time.
Q) Where do you see the Irish social care sector in five years?
Where do I see the social care sector in five years? I see it as a professional and ever developing profession in the same vein as occupational therapy and social work. In five years’ time, we’ll see the Registration board fully open, with social care workers fully registered and fully compliant with CPD. These developments will catapult the Continuing Professional Development through the various opportunities afforded to staff in all sectors. No doubt, there will be some social care workers who will be anxious about the additional expectations placed upon them by CORU. I would urge all social care workers to join SCI and take advantage of supports and services on offer to its members.
There are significant issues that we would like to see Social Care Ireland become more vocal around, particular the issue of young people leaving state care at 18 not being afforded support, financial and otherwise, as young adults.
Q) Anything to add before we finish up?
I was very happy to have the honour of being the Social Care Ireland President for the last two years. I’m also excited about the future of Social Care Ireland and I’d like to wish Chairperson-elect David Durney the best of luck and I look forward to working with him and the SCI board of directors.
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