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Managing Risk: Care Sector Focus

Sophie O'Sullivan, about 3 weeks ago

In the first instalment of our series on risk, we looked at perceptions around risk in the workplace. Following this, we shall focus on management of risk in the workplace. This piece will look at the care sector in particular.

In all sectors across the board, employers are concerned about the suitability of employing people with a criminal record. Perhaps this worry is especially prevalent in the social care sector due to the safeguarding aspect in dealing with children and vulnerable adults.

With this in mind, it is important to consider eligibility in light of the role in question and to work out what level of DBS check is required. Value-based recruitment favours a case by case approach toward risk assessment, which will help remove any barriers toward those with criminal justice experience and to better understand the context of the offending.

The roles in social care are so diverse ranging from drivers to administrators, receptionists, finance officers and these roles even extend to pre-placement programmes. This snapshot of variation captures the range of different responsibilities and therefore highlights the need for different levels of DBS checks.

There is also a major skills shortage in the social care sector. Organisations are beginning to think creatively in order to tackle high unemployment rates, poor staff retention and to diversify their talent pool.

It's good practice for risk assessments to include the responsibilities and activities attached to each role. A person-centred individualised approach will make it easier to establish eligibility. DBS checks need not pose a barrier to employment. Employers can use the DBS eligibility tool by following this link.

Dominic Headley, director of Dominic Headley and Associates, has developed comprehensive, dedicated guidance on safe and fair recruitment. This great resource is endorsed by Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The myth buster and Skills for Care guide looks at code of practice and safe recruitment for those with convictions in the social care sector.

Focus on Inspirative Arts Derby CIC

In 2017, Skills for Care launched a project to enable unemployed individuals from all backgrounds, including those who have experienced homelessness and individuals with criminal justice experience, to train in the social care sector. They awarded funding to Inspirative Arts Derby CIC. Through the Widening Participation programme, Inspirative Art's training arm Inspirative Development Ltd worked in partnership with YMCA Derby to deliver this opportunity. Inspirative Arts provides arts therapies and wellbeing arts for vulnerable children and adults.

It would have perhaps been easier to operate a blanket ban and turn these people away as others had done; however, we had been able to really get to know the candidates on the programme and could see the wealth of compassion and care they had to offer.

-Inspirative Arts

Based on our experiences we would advocate a person-centred, individualised approach to risk management should a potential staff member's DBS present challenging information.

-Inspirative Arts

The participants on the placement adhered to safeguarding policies and practice. They worked in a supervised setting, learning and receiving support every step of the way from those with more experience. The training included a series of group arts therapy sessions before progressing onto achieve accreditation (BTEC) in using activity provision for the social care sector, followed by a 12-week work placement. Read a blog documenting a participant's experience here.

Inspirative Arts at times felt like I had found my ideal world. With people advocating for social justice in the health and social care sector (equal rights for people with criminal records) and how everyone should really be person centred because after all it is a person centred sector.

-Inspirative Arts participant

One candidate, Wendy, had a really difficult up-bringing. After leaving care, she fell into an abusive relationship which took a toll on her mental health and overall wellbeing. She was later arrested and convicted after finally plucking up the courage to protect herself against her abusive partner. Since then, she struggled to find a safe place to live, but saw social care as a means through which she can empower herself, give back to the community and rebuild her life. She struggled to get experience in the field due to her conviction and the current nature of DBS checks. She was really proud to be a part of this programme with Inspirative Arts and has since progressed onto paid employment in the care sector.

I've had counselling to recover my mental health; worked really hard on my confidence and self-esteem; and embarked on training because I really want to work in health and social care. All those horrible experiences in my past mean I have massive amounts of empathy for people who need care now. I feel I've got so much compassion to offer people, and I'd be a really good care worker, because I know how it feels to be vulnerable and rely on services, and I understand how care can be improved.

-Inspirative Arts participant

Inspirative Arts found that this person-centred approach worked well and empowered candidates with the skills necessary to go onto to further employment in the social care sector. The candidates have since moved on and they enjoy continued contact with Inspirative Arts as a solid base of support. Having learnt a great deal during the programme, Inspirative Arts would like to launch a similar project in the future.

We are so glad we gave Wendy a chance. She has thrived on placement with us, demonstrating a kind and caring nature which has really benefitted our clients. We believe she and her colleagues emerging from our training programme are a real asset to the social care sector.

-Inspirative Arts

Inspirative Arts recommends that the following issues should be considered in making decisions within social care environments:the historic nature of offending behaviour, the openness of the applicant, the context of the offending and your own knowledge of the applicant, or the knowledge of others willing to give them a reference to work in the organisation.

And the following steps taken to mitigate risks of any new or existing staff member causing harm to clients: supervised working, effective work-based support, ongoing training, using normal safeguarding policies and practice and a proactive effort to support staff wellbeing.

If you are interested in becoming a See Potential Employer, please sign up to the campaign and with a few simple changes to recruitment practice you will be able to open up untapped talent from all backgrounds.

*Images courtesy of Mitch Gamble

*Film courtesy of Jamie Buchanan

*Names have been changed for confidentiality purposes