Over 750,000 care workers looking after vulnerable older people, adults and children will be registered, trained and vetted for the first time, Liam Byrne, Care Services Minister announced today.

In a speech to the first national Skills for Care conference on Tuesday 7 February he will ask the General Social Care Council to start the process that will lead to registration.

He will also announce a 600k joint research project with Comic Relief in to elder abuse and his intention to undertake a national tour to listen to older people and frontline staff.

The minister has decided the workforce must become more professional to ensure public confidence and meet the challenges posed by last week's Our Health, Our Care, Our Say White Paper.

Liam Byrne, Care Services Minister said: "Registration will provide clarity. It will enable older people and their families to have complete confidence in the people who care for them, or their loved ones.

"Registration is about public safety. It will allow us to train our care workers to look after our vulnerable people properly."

The GSCC will be asked to explore the possibility of pegging registration and re-registration to a process of continuous professional development.

Byrne will add: "The social care workforce in this country is bigger as the NHS workforce - 1.6m people working for 30,000 different companies, councils and charities.

"They look after 1.7m people but barely one in four have any form of professional training. Staff turn over rates are high and our social care workers take more sick leave than any other public sector group - it is clear that the workforce needs our help.

"We know there are lots of excellent care workers out there and they are a mainstay of our society. Their dedication should be recognised with professional registration. However, they are not yet a world class workforce equipped for the challenges posed by the government's decision to offer choice."

To address workforce issue Liam Byrne set up the Options for Excellence forum last July. The forum, which comprises representatives from every strata of social care, will provide the minister with an interim report in the spring outlining the current quality of social care in England and how it can be improved through better training, standards and regulation.

The Options for Excellence Board is also drawing up a blueprint of how social care will be provided in 15 year's time. The minister has asked the Board to try to envisage what services users will be asking for - whether that is more personal assistants, experts to help them "navigate" their way through services or more technology.

Dignity Champions

In the speech, Byrne will also announce his own personal national tour to seek the views of old people on what they require to live their lives with "dignity".

The minister has asked Professor Ian Philp, the older people's "tsar", to come up with ideas to reinvigorate the network of Older People's Champions* first set up by the National Service Framework for Older People.

One of the purposes of the tour will be to develop a "toolkit:** to help Older Peoples' Champions to push for better standards of care in their local community. These "toolkits" will contain information on best practice for providers, European comparisons, references to legislation and helpful phone numbers.

Byrne will say: "People should receive care that respects their dignity. No infringement of this is acceptable."

*Frontline NHS and care staff, patients, councillors, medical directors etc.
** The approach is modelled on the Home Office's "Together" campaign.

A "Toolkit" was given to people showing them how to tackle anti-social behaviour instead of tolerating it. The Home Office has so far trained 6,500 people to deal with anti-social problems. The Together website has received 170,000 hits and the Together Action Line has received 14,664 calls.


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