It was Mahatma Ghandi who said, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members”. In Wales we can be proud that devolution has brought a sharper focus to the way that our society cares for its most vulnerable, with a public policy drive to join up services. It is one that strives for continual improvement, and where those who need care are right at the centre of our thinking and planning.
And as we embark on the next steps of that journey with the implementation of new qualifications for health and social care, and childcare, starting this September, the challenges are great:
- An ageing population – the number of people in their 80s is expected to increase by 44% by 2030
- A target to recruit an additional 20,000 care workers over the next ten years, when our workforce, too, is getting older
- The increasing recognition of the importance of the Welsh language in the delivery of services.
The sector is not afraid of challenge and change, as anyone working in health and social care, and childcare knows. It is a sector that is willing to modernise, seeks always to improve, and understands that services must evolve to meet present and future needs. An example of this is the development of a joint Health and Social Care Workforce Strategy due to be published later this year.
And that’s what the new qualifications that will be taught from September 2019 – with a transition period for those already studying for existing qualifications – are all about.
After a thorough process of review, including expert advice and consultation with employers, learning providers, individuals who use services and front-line workers, we think these new qualifications will build on the excellent work already being carried out, and will enable the sector to take on the challenges that lie ahead.
We have streamlined the qualifications, to provide clarity and coherence. Over 240 qualifications from a range of awarding bodies will be reduced to a suite of around 20. All will be delivered by a consortium of the WJEC and City & Guilds, who between them have a strong track record of qualification development, assessment design and delivery and full understanding of the Welsh landscape, linguistically and culturally.
The new qualifications will be a recognised and consistent standard for all those working in health and social care, and childcare, providing a career pathway for those wanting to progress from school through to employment. It is something that is essential if we are to recruit the skilled workforce in the numbers that we need for the future. Equally important has been the collaboration between all stakeholders to ensure that the content of the new qualifications aligns to Welsh Government legislation and policies including the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act and A Healthier Wales.
Those who embark on a career in these sectors must be confident that their profession is one that nurtures talent, rewards skills, and allows ambitions to be realised. These are fundamental to the changes that we are bringing in.
What’s more, whilst these new qualifications are made in Wales, for Wales, they have been influenced by best practice and research. We are confident that the standards we are putting in place will be envied across the UK, enabling our future workforce to be well equipped for the task in hand.
Qualifications will be offered bilingually. For many who use care services, being able to communicate with service providers in Welsh is central to their identity and fundamental to their well-being. For the Welsh speaking workforce, and those who are learning, being able to develop their skills through the medium of Welsh is vital. In doing this, the new qualifications will help contribute to the Welsh Government’s target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050.
At the end of the day these reforms are all about making sure workers are supported to develop the knowledge and skills they need to provide high-quality care and support to adults and children across Wales.
That’s why we want to pay tribute to every single person working in health and social care, and childcare. They carry out their duties with passion and commitment, day-in-day-out, often in very difficult circumstances. These people, too often the unsung heroes and heroines, deserve to have the highest standard of training and support in a reinvigorated sector that’s fit for the future.
This is about building on what’s gone on before. Evolution is necessary to meet changing requirements and challenges. We must make sure qualifications meet the needs of learners and employers, but, most importantly, the thousands of individuals and families who rely on care and support every day right across Wales. It is vital we have a range of qualifications that continue to support a skilled and confident workforce.
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