Health and Social Care – Sector review report

Qualifications Wales publishes a report on the review of qualifications and the qualification system in the health and social care sector.

It outlines the review methodology, provides a summary of the findings and lists nine commitments to action that we will take to address the issues identified by the review.   These include proposals that we will oversee the development of a new suite of qualifications for health and social care in Wales: we will be consulting on our proposals for how to take this forward in September.

Read the report here.

Health and social care sector review: Your questions answered by Qualifications Wales

Why did Qualifications Wales decide to start a series of sector reviews

Qualifications Wales was set up last year as the independent regulator of qualifications in Wales. We took over a major programme of work on the reform of GCSEs and A levels –but recognise that vocational qualifications are just as important as general qualifications. They can test learners’ skills and knowledge before they start work, or in work, whether that’s as an employee, an apprentice or on a placement. 

Qualifications Wales decided not to take a one-size-fits-all approach to vocational qualifications but to focus on areas of work, known as sectors. We started with Health and Social Care and will be moving on to Construction and IT later this year.   Taking this approach means we can find out whether the qualifications really test whether learners have the knowledge and skills that employers need. For each sector, we’ll be reviewing the qualifications that young people take from age 16 right up to management level, to see if they are fit for purpose.

Why did Qualifications Wales choose health and social care as to be the subject of the first review?

More people in Wales are employed in health and social care than in any other sector – and the numbers of women are especially high. Qualifications are taken very seriously in this sector and there is increasing pressure on employers to make sure that their staff are qualified. It is vital to make sure that care workers know how to care for people safely, and that they really do put people first when they are providing care.

 What conclusions did the review come to?

Qualifications Wales found quite a bit of good practice: learners were working hard to produce evidence and many colleges went the extra mile to develop those skills. However, our overall view is that qualifications in health and social care could be more effective.  

There is a wide range of qualifications available, but it’s not easy for learners to choose which qualifications to take. Sometimes they end up taking more than one qualification because the one they have taken isn’t quite right for the job they are going to do. Some of the qualifications, particularly those for younger learners, have been around for a while and aren’t as up to date as they could be. And some qualifications are not being assessed in ways that bring out the best in learners. There is, generally, too much form-filling and portfolio-building and not enough in-depth assessment of whether learners really understood why they need to do some of the things they are doing.  

Are health and social care workers getting the sort of training they need?

Our remit is mainly to look at the qualifications – but it’s hard to do that without seeing what’s happening in terms of training and learning. While there’s a lot of good training about, we found that the time taken to complete assessments sometimes eats into time which could be better spent in developing learners’ knowledge and understanding. If we can improve the assessment process, we might free up more time for learning.

The report says there should be a greater focus on dementia care in health care qualifications – why?

The number of people being diagnosed with dementia is growing, as people are living longer.   As well as needing specialists in dementia care, it’s really important that all care workers who work with elderly people know how to provide high quality dementia care and support – whether that is in care homes, in health care, or in peoples’ own homes. Care workers need to know about dementia, and the issues surrounding it, to make sure that their approach supports people with dementia – and their carers – to live well.

What’s great news is that the Care Council for Wales has just produced a dementia learning and development framework to support formal training – and this will be a really useful tool when we are thinking about new qualifications.

It’s a very important sector – can the public have faith in the qualifications of workers in this sector?

The public can, and should, have confidence in the current Health and Social Care qualifications and in the workforce. We’re looking, through this review, to make improvements to the qualifications which will help care workers to provide even better care to some of our most vulnerable members of society.

What happens next?

Well, this isn’t a review that identifies a range of problems but leaves it for other people to sort them out. We will asking awarding bodies who run the qualifications to address some of our concerns as soon as possible. However, longer term, we will oversee the development of a new suite of qualifications for learners in health and social care – including childcare – so that have really clear qualification choices.   We’ll make sure that the qualifications assess the right skills and knowledge and that assessment is always meaningful and well designed. We can’t do this on our own, so we’re very pleased to have the support of the Care Council for Wales and a range of other specialists and learning providers who are committed to working with us to getting these new qualifications in place over the next few years.  

There will be a period of change, and change can be challenging. As part of our action plan we’re committed to supporting teachers, tutors and assessors in preparing for the new qualifications. We have a busy few years ahead!

What were the review findings in relation to Welsh language learners and access to Welsh language care services?

We did hear from a number of learners who would have liked to take their qualifications through the medium of Welsh – but didn’t. Sometimes this was because they would have had to learn separately to their friends, sometimes it was because the arrangements to mark their work would take longer. We are committed to making sure that the new qualifications will be available to learners in the medium of Welsh – and having this new suite of qualifications will mean that Welsh-speaking assessors are not spread so thinly.

But we must also remember the needs of Welsh-speakers who are receiving care. It’s really important that all care workers are able to recognise the need for vulnerable people to communicate in their language of choice – and we’ll be making sure that the need to provide person centred care in a bilingual nation is at the heart of the new qualifications.