Those of you who read this Blog regularly will have read about the SISCo project before.  But they have now moved into a Pilot Phase and I recently took part in a workshop at the SCIE conference in Birmingham.

Before I go much further I wanted to state that I am fully behind the drive to increase Basic Skills awareness, provision and attainment in the Care Sector.  SISCo is a great opportunity to do just that and I recommend that any Care Provider who is interested should go to the SISCo website and register to take part in the pilot.

The Conference break-out was split into two sessions, the first asked 3 key questions, the second reviewed the SISCo Action Plans and asked for comments.  Notes from the Conference were as follows:

Session 1

Q1. What do basic skills mean to you?

Skills identified by the group:

• Reading
• Writing
• Speaking
• Listening
• Using numbers
• IT skills (increasingly needed across all levels of sector)

Additional skills or attributes identified were:

• Time management
• Ability to learn
• Understanding of core care values including
  – confidentiality
  – ‘customer service’
  – professionalism

Other issues related to basic skills raised:

• Stigma associated with admission of skills gap
• Impact of stigma on both learner and manager
• Particular support issues for independent workers (e.g. domiciliary)

Q2.  What are the manager’s responsibilities in relation to basic skills?

• Support staff in having competence and confidence to perform in their role
• Identify any skills gaps
• Address poor performance – particularly through work-based structures (i.e. not simply saying ‘go and do some training’)
• Identify skills gaps during recruitment and selection stage

Comments/questions raised:

• Was the challenge of addressing lack of basic skills such as reading and writing beyond the manager’s role?
• Do social care managers have the time to address these issues?
• What is the role of skills checking in volunteer or non-staff roles such as foster carers? (where overt testing not appropriate)
• Training and development staff, as well as managers, may regard basic skills as a taboo area

Q3. What action is indicated on basic skills in social care organisations?

• Avoid calling them basic – present them as care skills and see them as a part of the vocational learning continuum
• Recognise the difficulty in addressing these areas when the social care employer has very limited buying power in the labour market; this may be particularly true for agencies

Session 2

Comments made on Action Plan

• Looks time-consuming to do as there are potentially so many tasks to analyse
• May be beyond expertise of managers
• Consider supplying ‘checklist’/’crib-sheet’/’worked example’
• Consider creating list of ‘top 50’ social care tasks and identifying the basic skills that they entail
• May be better presented as an awareness raising exercise rather than a set of bureaucratic tasks

Personally, this pilot phase is vitally important for the success of this project.  In my opinion, the Action Plans we were shown unfortunately did not take into consideration:

1. The workload of the manager.
2. Whether the manager can analyse the tasks in the workplace and identify the basic skill requirements.
3. Whether the manager themselves have basic skill gaps.

Any of these 3 issues could stop a manager using these Action Plans in the workplace.  Furthermore, with a lack of guidance, there is currently no way of judging how appropriate the analysis is. Additionally, one member of the group asked about CSCI – what did they think of the programme – a question that could not be answered.

So, in summary – SISCo is currently a great idea that will need further development for it to reach it’s potential.  If you have the time and you are a Care Provider please get involved and help SISCo succeed!