Improving the Wellbeing of Care Workers

The Context

This Network is focused on improving the wellbeing of care workers.

Care is amazing – and it transforms people’s lives. There might be many vacancies in adult social care, but there are many opportunities to make a difference. However, without the right support, care work can be difficult and distressing – and the way that adult social care is funded and organised means that many roles can be poorly paid, insecure and stressful.

IMPACT Networks is taking action: By gathering evidence and sharing experiences, they’re working to create positive change and improve the wellbeing of care workers

IMPACT Network

Networks are meeting across the UK, coordinated by 

Evidence Review

The initial evidence review, written by Jon Glasby, aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by care workers and encourages exploring ways to improve their wellbeing, ultimately leading to better care for everyone. This evidence review found:

Why is this an important issue?

  • Taking care of others can be emotionally draining, requiring emotional labour.
  • This can lead to burnout if not addressed properly.
  • Many people believe focusing on supporting well-being is crucial to support social care staff.
  • Research shows improvements in staff well-being benefit both employees and the people they care for

Challenges and Solutions:

Implementing changes to support staff can be difficult due to time constraints and existing work cultures. Successful solutions involve:

  • Organisational commitment: Plans should be driven by the organisation, not individuals.
  • Management support: Leaders need to be involved and supportive.
  • Multiple approaches: Different strategies will work for different teams.
  • Continuous improvement: Making changes over time is key to real progress.

Local Network Meetings

First Meetings

At the first Local Network meeting, Local Network Members discussed the evidence review and their experiences of caring and/or being cared for. The key findings were:

The main things people said helped enhance choice and control, included:

  • Covid was an important factor impacting on the social and lifestyle of the care workforce in a negative way.
  • Before Covid, there was more time and places for people who work care develop relationships with the people that they worked with.
  • After Covid, less time is spent in spaces like break rooms to talk and decompress. Care staff go straight at home without having the time to talk with colleagues about the day

Staff and carers do not have time to think about their own wellbeing.

Someone said this was like a 3 legged stool in which one leg is Expectations, one is Needs, and one is Time in adult social care.

While there are rising expectations and needs from the social care sector, time has been reduced. This makes the stool (adult social care workforce) very unbalanced.

A larger proportion of carers are women and for this reason it is often taken for granted. Women don’t talk about the difficulties of this role as they should be able to “just do it”.

But men who are carers feel that no one expects them to care, so it’s hard to talk about.

Leadership plays a central role in the promotion of wellbeing. For example, one care home manager in Sunderland created a space in the care home where staff can go and speak to each other about how they feel and how their day’s been going.

Training about the importance of wellbeing for carers and staff. More courses should be available for people to become equipped to care and going to care roles, especially about managing and noticing your own well being.

Relationships are a positive factor in wellbeing. Carers and service users often support each other, they are mutually important to improve wellbeing.

Feeling appreciated supports staff wellbeing. One social worker talked about the importance of talking about what they had done the day before with their colleagues. This provided an opportunity “to get advice and get some validation that you were doing a good job”. Another good practice is to have well-being officers and mentors who disseminate information and support initiatives and events. Examples of these include:

  • a well-being window for half an hour a week to do whatever you like:
  • a lunch break built into the diary
  • coffee and cake mornings
  • team walks
  • daily morning session on Teams that staff could choose to join to discuss work and social matters

Third Meetings

Even though the Networks are all in different parts of the UK, they have identified common areas where ‘big’ changes would help and actions that could be taken by organisations

  • Pay and working conditions are vitally important: “You can give us as much coffee and cake as you like, but if we aren’t being supported to do our job and support ourselves, we will just leave.” – Quote from networks
  • There are differences between health and social care workforces – not only how much people get paid but also on how work is organised.
  • Changing the way people think and talk about the social care workforce to help everyone see care jobs as professions, with workers’ rights respected.
  • The wellbeing of workers also comes after focusing on meeting the needs of those being cared for. It can be hard for people who work in care jobs to think about their own wellbeing.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic created more challenges with reduced services, including mental health provision. This has increased the pressure on people who work in care.
  • People who work in care may have other responsibilities such as caring for children or older parents. It is hard to balance all these responsibilities.
  • Networks discussed things that damage emotional wellbeing including lack of trust and flexibility.
  • Less money available for care has meant there is less time so people who work in care often can’t meet and talk to their colleagues for support
  • Networks talked about the importance of social time and breaks as a way to support wellbeing But this is can only happen if there are enough staff so people can take proper breaks without causing bad feelings in teams.
  • Mapping other services providing support is a way to support people who work in care – they can tell the people they care for about other things that could make them happy.
  • Each local network started their action plan and suggested actions ahead of their next meeting. From sharing the learning across the networks, there was also opportunity for further knowledge exchange, with some networks arranging meetings with each other to learn more.