It’s nearly three years since the launch of the Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy, and since then we’ve seen significant challenges caused by a worldwide pandemic, the cost of living crisis, the war in Ukraine and the impact of Brexit.
But, despite these difficulties our aim remains the same, which is to have a motivated, engaged and valued health and social care workforce, with the capacity, competence, and confidence to meet the needs of the people of Wales.
There have been significant challenges over the last three years, but we’ve made progress, as you can see in our delivery plan annual report. But despite this progress, social care is facing major workforce challenges, with difficulties attracting people into the sector, recruiting enough people, and retaining the existing workforce.
Alongside these challenges, the workforce is still feeling the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the efforts that were made to keep services going, keep people safe and meet increasing demand. Staff well-being is also being affected by increased levels of stress, fatigue and burnout, along with perceived poor working conditions and a lack of professional development opportunities.
These workforce issues are a priority to solve as we move forward. We must act quickly to resolve the challenges facing the existing workforce and deal with the issue of attracting new people into the workforce. We need to create the right conditions to allow people to deliver quality services.
We can’t provide high quality health and social care services and support to the people of Wales without our workforce, who work in a range of statutory, private or voluntary provider services, as volunteers or carers. All these workers and volunteers are included in this strategy.
When we describe the workforce, we include foster carers, volunteers and unpaid carers. The actions we include, where relevant, apply to these groups just as much as they do to the more traditional definition of the workforce.
We also want to improve services in Wales in line with the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act and the A healthier Wales ambitions, to deliver care closer to home and to improve the quality of support for vulnerable children and adults of all ages. The pandemic had a significant effect on the workforce, but more critically across our communities, especially for those who rely on good quality care and support. We’re now seeing greater pressure on the sector caused by more families living in poverty, and increased demands because of demographic changes.
The 2023 to 2026 delivery plan builds on the progress made so far and includes developments based on feedback we heard from engagement with the sector. It describes the actions that will help to move the workforce forward over the next three years, and includes:
- new actions, based on your feedback
- existing actions that will carry on as they’re essential to our work
- the next phase of development of previous actions.
The actions build on areas we can take forward effectively in partnership with our health colleagues. These areas of joint work include well-being, the mental health workforce plan, leadership, and workforce development to support integrated care and support.
The actions of the workforce strategy have also led to the development of sector specific workforce plans for:
- the direct care workforce
- the social work profession
- the mental health workforce, developed in partnership with Health Education Improvement Wales (HEIW).
These plans help to support the aims of the workforce strategy and have actions in common, such as well-being approaches, attraction, and recruitment. They also include actions that are specific to the relevant part of the sector.