A Bright Perspective – Changing Public Perceptions of Social Care

It’s all too-common a theme; a simple search on the BBC News website for ‘Care Home’ yields depressing results. ‘Cheshunt care home fire’, ‘Care home manager jailed’, ‘Care home deaths: standards fell short’, ‘Quality of staffing at care home ‘weak’’. The list goes on. These are just articles from the first 10 days in April, and amongst them is a single BBC Radio 4 podcast on a listener’s experience of care home costs; the only news item that doesn’t directly paint the care sector in a negative light.

Is there a problem with care? The key concept of adult social care is to look after those who can no longer look after themselves, or to assist them to continue living independent/semi-independent lives. Does the vulnerable nature of the people in care only draw people to the sector who are willing to do bad things, or is there more at play here when we consider news headlines and media coverage of adult social care?

It’s fair to say that care is an easy target. It represents much that we love and fear as a society – the ideals of retirement mixed with the realities of ageing, the thought that the healthy bodies we currently possess could grow into something more fragile and vulnerable. News items like those mentioned above highlight this vulnerability to us and they incense us. “How could this happen to an older person?!” is the question they want us to ask. Yet it’s undeniable that as we see these news items there are more processes going on than just sympathy. They ask us to pity the old, ask us to fear being in their position, and to decry care homes as a place no one would want to be for all the terrible things that must happen in them.

Patient with Walker Image

Why is this the media stance? From working closely with the sector, we have experienced first-hand the love and joy that can be found in care homes – the shared smiles, brilliant activities and remarkable experiences, both past and present. We’re not pretending care isn’t difficult at times; there are hard decisions to be made and heart-breaking moments to be had, and it’s clear there is a small minority of individuals and of homes that fall below the exceptional standards demanded of them. Yet for every negative news story in the mainstream media there are hundreds of stories on smaller news platforms about residents celebrating life, of staff going far above and beyond to make sure the people in their care are well looked-after, and of innovative new ideas to improve the sector. Why don’t these reach the bigger news outlets?

We recognise that it’s important to report on the dreadful incidents that can happen, that the public needs to know about them and that the media has a duty to report on them, because in the long run it may help stop incidents in the future. But the mainstream media also has a responsibility to report on the good things that happen to help shape the public perceptions of the sector, to inspire confidence and encourage public involvement with care.

Laughing Old Man Image

What can we do as recruiters to help alter these perceptions? Fortunately, as mentioned previously, there are a number of smaller news platforms that are willing and ready to hold up care as a brilliant profession and care homes as places that celebrate later life, and we at Bright Selection will always champion life affirming, care-positive news through our website and social media pages. In support of promoting positive messages around careers in care our colleagues Emma and Joanne recently visited St Helena school in Colchester to take part in an ‘Inspiring the Future’ campaign, where professionals go into school speaking to children about their prospects, expectations of a career and the routes they can take to get there. The most important element they found of their experience was their ability to encourage and shape the views of those children who were most interested in care as a future profession. It’s direct involvement with the community like this that puts us as recruiters in a unique position – If we can’t change public perceptions of social care now, we can work toward changing the perceptions of those who represent our future.

The Bright Team on Sofa

Within our team, all of our senior staff and many of our newcomers each have amazing stories to tell about care; things that they’ve witnessed on visits to care homes or been told by managers and nurses. We’ve seen managers take time out to comfort anxious residents living with dementia, care workers go out of their way to protect their residents or take unpaid overtime just to make sure their journey to the hospital went smoothly. These are the unsung heroes of the sector and they are why we work so hard to make placements that are right for everyone – the candidate themselves, the provider, and the residents.