Richard Banks (CPEA Associate) reflects on developments from the Skills Academy
Tuesday 17th September a meeting called by the National Skills Academy for Social Care to think through how mentoring might be part of how Registered managers are supported. Mentoring has been a successful part of number of leadership programmes and in particular schemes for black and ethnic minority managers.
It was helpful to check the differences between a number of related methods of supporting managers such as supervision, coaching and counselling. Throughout the meeting we returned to the sad reality that many Registered Managers get little or no proper support and that any fine differences between methods such as mentoring and coaching would be difficult for them to get concerned about.
However there is no doubt that Registered Managers, who often report a sense of isolation and difficulty in gaining perspective on their life, would find mentoring helpful. Mentoring may be described as where a person can ‘take part in a voluntary mutually beneficial and purposeful relationship in which an individual gives time to support another to enable them to make changes in their life or work’ (Mentoring and Befriending Foundation). As with other proposed improvements we will need to incorporate it into whole system thinking. Certainly we will need to avoid that tendency, too often held in social care, which introduces a single improving component as offering magical solutions to the wide and complex needs of our sector.
That whole system question remains how we act to establish the entire social care workforce including Registered Managers as respected professionals that are properly remunerated. It was rather disappointing that the recent Cavendish Report on the health and social care work force did not extend its remit and recommend action on registration. Professional registration alone would not create the needed improvements for the social care workforce but it would be an important component of that change. As is being found in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland where registration is being planned for and being introduced. An important part of registration is the use of a code of conduct that covers both the individual staff member and the expectation on employers to provide supervision and management support. Cavendish did make a recommendation on this; saying the ‘Department of Health must review the progress of the social care compact: and substitute a formal code of conduct for employers if a majority have not acted upon it by June 2014’. Progress is being made here, lead by Skills for Care, with www.thesocialcarecommitment.org.uk
The Skills Academy will progress thinking about the use of mentoring and I hope the sector will assist in supporting that work. It particular helping to prevent the potential of mentoring being constrained or over burdened by setting training requirements, endless consideration about who might be allowed to do it and unnecessary bureaucracy. There was debate at the meeting on how far a mentor from outside of the sector could assist a Registered Manager. Given the need for social care to engage with the general public I would urge that opportunities to look outside the sector ought to be actively considered. The over riding issue should be the compatibility of the two people and the capacity to bring new ideas and different perspectives.
One way to think about this would be to apply the ideas of personalisation. All the reasons why personalisation is a good thing for those people we support apply in similar ways to mentoring. Registered Managers can identify just what sort of support they want, when is the right time and the sort of person they could trust with their hopes and fears.