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A Healthier Wales – A workforce strategy for health and social care

Our annual report summarises the main areas of progress achieved in the second full year of the strategy.

Infographic that shows the top 10 achievements of the workforce strategy annual report 2022 to 2023.
Here are some of the highlights of our annual report.

Social Care Wales annual report 2022 to 2023

In October 2020, together with Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) we launched Our Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care, to support the implementation of A Healthier Wales.

2022 to 2023 was our second full year of delivering the strategy and it continued to be a challenging period for the sector. We entered a new phase of the pandemic that eventually saw a reduction in restrictions, but coincided with a cost of living crisis and the impact of Brexit leading to acute problems with recruitment and retention.

The social care and health sectors are still feeling the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and it will continue to have a lasting impact for years to come. In response, we’ll continue to put in place the support that the workforce and employers need, by working quickly to implement the commitments set out in the strategy.

Progress despite difficulties

Despite the significant challenges of the last three years we’ve made progress and we need to celebrate this and the improvements made to the sector. But, social care is facing major workforce challenges and it’s difficult to attract people into the sector, recruit enough staff, and retain the existing workforce.

Terms and conditions

When we carried out engagement and consultation work on the revised actions for the workforce strategy, we consistently heard that terms and conditions need to be improved. This includes pay and wider terms and conditions such as flexible working, consistent policies for areas such as travel, training, sickness and maternity leave.

The people we spoke to told us they want the status of the sector to improve and for it to be held in the same regard as health. There needs to be a collective voice at all levels on this. The issues of pay and wider terms and conditions may need to be looked at separately, but both must be worked on quickly. Parity of esteem between the health and social care workforces is linked to this and there’s work being carried out to address some of the challenges.

Workforce well-being

We must protect the workforce's safety and well-being and increase our focus on diversity. Building and developing a compassionate leadership approach will help, as it creates an inclusive and diverse culture that reflects our local communities. Staff well-being is paramount, and every member of the health and social care professional community should feel valued and supported.

Our themes and actions

The golden threads of well-being, Welsh language and inclusion run through all our themes and actions. They continue to play an essential part in the culture change we need to provide modern and vital services for the people of Wales.

This report summarises the main areas of progress achieved during 2022 to 2023 in our programmes of work, and also in our work in partnership with HEIW.

The workforce strategy provides actions across all services and settings, but this report also specifically mentions the activities and progress against each of the workforce plans we’ve developed since we launched the strategy in October 2020.

These are:

We’ve made this progress at the same time as we’ve started considering the next phase of the implementation of the strategy, from 2023 onwards. We’ve carried out significant engagement to shape the actions and content of the next stage of implementation, and we’re due to publish a new delivery plan in October 2023. This is in line with our first formal review period, as promised in the original strategy.

Our progress in 2022 to 2023

An engaged, motivated and healthy workforce

Attraction and recruitment

Seamless working models

Building a digitally ready workforce

Excellent education and training

Leadership and succession

Workforce supply and shape

Work to come

The following areas of work haven’t yet begun. This is for a range of reasons including lack of capacity either within Social Care Wales or in the sector itself due to vacancies. There have also been some changes in policy direction, such as in relation to the Liberty Protection Safeguards.

Social work workforce plan:

  • share good practice around offering general support to social workers, such as peer support and supervision and de-briefing sessions
  • develop the role of social work ambassadors
  • develop a ‘Social work digital capabilities framework’
  • commission a revised digital skills element of the social work curriculum for all undergraduate programmes
  • launch our new post-qualifying framework for social work
  • introduce a learning and development framework to support the implementation of the new Liberty Protection Safeguards that will replace the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards
  • review our approach and process for recording ongoing continuing professional development (CPD)
  • design a leadership qualities framework
  • develop a leadership programme for aspiring colleagues from minority groups
  • analyse the jobs portal and its data to look at workforce supply and demand and review our approach to workforce planning.

Direct care workforce plan:

  • develop resources for managers to begin assessing how well they meet the well-being at work commitments that are integral to the health and well-being framework
  • develop resources that clearly show the career paths available to all staff in the direct care workforce
  • develop and deliver learning and development programmes to put the Liberty Protection Safeguards into action
  • develop social care-specific resources so more people can gain essential skills in communication and application of number.
  • review how we support registered people to record their CPD easily, and in an accessible way.

Conclusion

The pandemic has had a long-lasting effect on the health and social care sectors. It’s shone a light on the challenges that existed before the pandemic and created new challenges during the ongoing recovery.

We aspire to achieve the ambition of the 10-year strategy, but we recognise more needs to be done to put longer term plans in place to meet these aspirations. We will continue to support collaborative working across health and social care, between local organisations and national bodies working in social partnership.

The work carried out since the strategy’s launch, which is linked to its seven key themes and underpinning golden threads, has allowed us to gain a momentum we can build upon in future years, in-line with our longer-term goals. This puts us in a good position to meet the challenges and opportunities that 2023 to 2024 and beyond will bring.

We’ve consulted on the next three-year phase of delivery, linked to the ambitions of the health and social care workforce strategy. This will be published in October 2023 and will provide a clear set of actions so we can continue to support the workforce and build on the work already carried out.

Social Care Wales, September 2023

First published: 5 September 2023
Last updated: 30 January 2024
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