As the personalisation agenda continues to expand, less of the future adult social care workforce is likely to be employed directly by local government. Yet conversely the sector will remain a key player in commissioning and planning that workforce.
Make no mistake, this role is vital. Skills for Care estimates that by 2025 we will need to find and train up to one million new adult social care workers in England alone.
There are fewer incentives for service user employers to develop their workers
For directors of adult social services a major strategic challenge will be to find the future leaders and senior managers to lead a bigger, more flexible and diverse workforce.
The traditional career path for adult social care is often seen as support worker to social worker to manager and finally to a senior management role. But a more personalised model of service delivery removes many of these steps as the service user becomes the service manager.
So there is less room for clear personal assistant career progression.
There are also fewer incentives for service user employers to develop their workers or support them to enhance their careers. The jump for a personal assistant is from a frontline role to a senior manager role with nothing in-between.
It could be argued this is not a problem for local government. Yet the sector will still require adult social care experts in its workforce as commissioners, policymakers and strategists.
It could take 10 years to develop a personalised adult social care career system that works
So investing in a career path for personal assistants makes strategic sense if you combine a pragmatic approach to workforce development with a straw poll of the average age of your current senior adult social care team.
As the national workforce agency for adult social care, Skills for Care has published a guide for service user employers on how to recruit, retain and develop their staff.
Across independent adult social care there are well-designed learning and development frameworks that help employers to recruit and retain people.
Skills for Care has provided significant strategic and practical support to enable employers to put these systems in place.
Strategically, chief executives and directors need to ask themselves: what can we learn from how a sector traditionally associated with poor qualification levels has managed in a short period of time to make dramatic progress to improve the number of qualified staff?
Practically, senior leaders need to work out how to enable service user employers to see the value in equipping their staff with leadership skills and seeing them move into senior social care roles.
It may be 10 years before this is a real issue. But it could take 10 years to develop a personalised adult social care career system that works. We need to start the planning process now to prepare the next generation of senior managers to meet the challenges ahead.
Andrea Rowe, retiring chief executive, Skills for Care