How Active Support could help you recruit and keep outstanding social care staff

Resident and support worker making pizza at Leeds Autism Services
Resident and support worker making pizza at Leeds Autism Services

Clive Parry, ARC England Director

ARC’s members are telling us that attracting, recruiting and retaining staff with the right values and motivation to support people with a learning disability, autism or behaviours of concern is their number one challenge right now. I was not, therefore, surprised to see the wonderful feedback following the Masterclass webinar that the adult social care recruitment and retention sector expert Neil Eastwood ran for us on 20th October 2021. One member said it was “the most informative hour I have spent in months. It was simply fabulous“.

Included in one of Neil’s slides was a point about the weight of the responsibility that support workers must shoulder.  Whilst it is tempting to see this as frontline workers being underpaid in relation to the level of personal accountability the role carries, (which of course they are), Neil turned this idea on its head. He suggested that taking responsibility for supporting people well is actually one of the key motivational factors for people wishing to join the sector. This fits with Herzberg’s Motivation Theory which identified the key factors associated with job satisfaction as: a sense of achievement, recognition, advancement, growth and responsibility.

So how are we keeping the morale of new and established staff high? Do we have excellent practice leadership or administrative leadership? Without the right support from practice leaders and the wider organisation, staff motivation can start to decline, and often quite rapidly. Sickness levels can rise and staff turnover noticeably increases, which in turn can affect the rest of the team. A lack of connectivity to organisational culture and values will become evident. If people are not buying into your company ethic, they are more likely to become disillusioned.

How Active Support helps your recruitment and retention

Active Support’s three key elements – Positive Interaction, Planning and Practice Leadership – combine to create improvements in the quality of life for the people we support, thus linking directly to the key driver of a sense of achievement that we know is important to the most committed and effective people in your organisation.

The Practice Leadership element of Active Support, whereby competent practice leaders use interactive training to coach, support and motivate their staff, is vital because not only does it turn the theory of Active Support into practice, but it truly makes people feel that they are a valued member of their team and the organisation.

We do know that when an organisation truly embraces, embeds and sustains the three elements of Active Support, there are significant improvements in motivation, values-based behaviours and attitudes. Staff turnover improves (and when staff do decide to leave, their conversations about their time with the provider are more positive, leading to better PR), there are fewer safeguarding concerns and fewer grievances are raised, behaviours of concern reduce and quality of life for the people being supported improves. This in turn can have major cost savings for organisations.

Applying person-centred principles like those of Active Support allows the people you support to flourish, and extending that opportunity to your staff can result in a positive individual impact that supports a healthy organisational culture.

Below is a quotation from a CQC Inspection report where the service was rated Outstanding and in which ARC England supported staff and managers to embed the principles and practice of Active Support:

“In several areas, we saw examples of how an Active Support model had resulted in people taking the initiative to start a particular task, which gave people more ownership over their days.

“Staff spoke enthusiastically of the results they had seen from this initiative. One support worker told us “I feel it’s empowering. Previously [the person] would gesture [s/he] wanted a cup of tea, now they will get up and go to the kettle. Absolutely the Active Support helps; I’m surprised it hasn’t come along before.”

If you want to find out more how Active Support and Practice Leadership can help your organisation, we are offering a free one-hour consultation with our Active Support Lead, Christine Rose. This consultation could take place during a senior managers’ meeting or as a one-to-one appointment. Please contact us at contact.us@arcuk.org.uk to book your consultation.

Find out more about ARC England’s Active Support courses and consultancy.