Managing director, Paul Blane tells us about his experiences in Adult Social Care and the importance of effective training for employees
Can you introduce yourself and tell me about your current role?
My name is Paul Blane, I’m the managing director of Care Business Associate Training. Which is a national training organisation. I’m also the managing director of SVL Care which is residential care homes for the elderly, these are smaller size care homes roughly with about 30 beds in each.
I was also the managing director and the founder of a company called Ecompetency. I have many vested interests in health and social care!
Can you tell me more about the care home you work at, and how you have coped over the last 12 months?
Within SVL Care we have coped very well over the last 12 months. We have had a great performance by the team. We have managed to remain COVID free throughout the whole pandemic. Everyone now, has been double vaccinated and we have taken many precautions. Workforce wise, we have maintained our workforce and we have always had a really good retention rate for staff.
Like all care homes, we have found there is an annual rate of which you lose loved ones that you care for, so we have lost people not to COVID, but to old age. We found that for the first time in a long time that the fill rate means that we now have three empty bedrooms. But that is because of pipelines, local authorities and people not being able to visit as often or as regular as they would want to.
I can see you work in training for health and social care, can you tell us more about that, what inspired you to start that?
I have been involved in health and social care since I was 16 years old. Starting off as a carer and working my way up to manager at only 19 years of age! By the age of 27 I actually owned a care home.
Personally, I was inspired a number of years ago when I was sitting on some training courses. I found that a lot of the training was being done by people who weren’t working in the sector. They may be subject matter experts in the field of health and safety and other areas, but not necessarily experts in the field of health and social care.
So, I took myself off to University to do a teaching degree because I thought I would do my own training. From there I went on to become a University lecturer and worked for an international training organisation. Around three years ago I decided to set up my own training, and now we are a national training organisation with over 300 people across the country delivering to some of the biggest names in health and social care. We deliver around 70 to 80 courses per day!
Giving something back
Teaching is something I love, giving something back is great. Having people in classrooms where they have the expertise within the industry, helps tremendously well.
Also, we’ve got to develop as training organisations. We have got to change with the times. It’s often the case that you’re sending people in year after year to re learn the alphabet. So, if someone is on their 10th moving and handling course, 10 years in a row, then in any other walk of life they would be doing a level 10, but often they are still sitting doing a level 2 or level one because that’s what the regulation requires.
We’ve got to really come into this industry in the training world, smash it to smithereens and say instead of staff doing 20 courses per year and doing the same course time after time; as a training organisation what we wanted to do was to say let’s competency assess staff. Let’s do a thorough competency check on them and bring them back to the classroom, when it’s time to upskill.
What inspired you to start working in care?
When I left school, I was going to be a jockey, I was going to be the best jockey that ever walked the face of the planet and that was my ambition from around 8 years old. I did that, I left school at 15 and lived in Denmark where you can get a licence to be a jockey! But the problem I had was that I’m 5 foot 10, which for most people isn’t particularly tall but for the jockey’s world you’re a giant! It was my mother who decided that I needed to get a job in a care home where she worked. And that’s how I entered the industry!
What I was inspired by, was how bad things were. At that time, I was looking around the dining room where people were fast asleep, some, with their head in their food. I was seeing bedrooms where there were three people sharing a bedroom. So, I was inspired by the fact that by being a nobody, I could be somebody within this industry. Because there was a lot of things that could be changed.
What’s the most rewarding part about working in care?
There are so many! I think one of the things that gets me the most is when you see someone who maybe has had a stroke, and because of that they have mobility deterioration; but then after weeks of work you get that person taking the first steps down the corridor. When you see that, you realise that you don’t have to be a physiotherapist, an OT or clinician to do that, a care assistant can make the difference in someone’s life.
Reward is seeing smiles on peoples faces. Seeing people coming to a care environment and find a community again. Helping people who have had such hard lives to smile again, seeing someone pass away and feeling that their needs have been met and they’re content.
Then you have got the staff! They are an amazing bunch of people, who normally left school with no academic qualifications. They have come into an industry and are so inspiring, and so caring. And they do it not for the love of money, but because it makes a difference.
What’s the future for social care, and what are your hopes for the future of it?
I think that it needs to be in alignment with healthcare. I feel that there is a massive split starting to happen between health, and social care. When I first started in the industry, the industry was known as health and social care. Now it is very much known as healthcare or social care. There seems to be a divide there. One is being promoted as angelic and the other is being demonised. I think we all have to realise that we are doing the same job. We all have to realise, that this job comes with massive plus points and massive negative points. And that burnout has a massive effect within the industry. I think what you find is a massive class divide.
In terms of how it changes, funding is going to have to change. These smaller providers cannot afford to take local authority rates. Whether you’re a carer on £20.00 an hour or carer on £10 an hour, at your heart you are a carer delivering your best. What it will have an impact on is the wellness and the socialness that you have within your facility. The ability to be able to do more things; because if you’ve not got enough money, how are you going to provide those outward services that might care home so special?
Ultimately, care should be available to all. Personally, I think it should be free to all. I think we should be paying towards a National Insurance contribution that gets us care in the future, or at least part of it.
There are lots of things that need changing. The problem is the government have messed around using nice talking points every election. Be it this government or any other political party, they do not want to cover it because of the cost that lies there. But we’re going towards a cliff edge more each year. I think COVID has pushed it much faster. They need to tackle it and to do something. In many of the European countries you pay an extra tax (for care).
Could anything have been handled different by the government over the last 12 months in hindsight?
Yes, they could. I think at the very start there was the mass lack of PPE. It wasn’t that the care homes wanted it free of charge, which the government have done now, which they must be praised for. But ultimately it wasn’t about at the start, that we wanted free PPE. We wanted to get PPE. And a lot of PPE providers had upped their cost astronomically, which they could argue was because they were having to pay higher prices to import. Governments should have ring fenced it, found it and handed it to social care.
To not mention social care in the budget when it was touted though it was going to be mentioned in the lead up right to it (and wasn’t). Now we have guidance that doesn’t make sense, I can go out to a beer garden right now, have a pint and come back to the office, yet if one of my residents in the care home decides to go to the beer garden and goes back to care home, they must isolate in their bedroom for 14 days. We’re talking about deprivation of liberty. They are being deprived of the liberty. This needs to be a fair society for all.
I don’t think if it had been any other political party, it would have been any different so I’m not here to lambaste the conservative party. Every European country in the world has made mistakes because it was unprecedented. However, what they have done is created a myth that care homes are the hub of COVID and that had a detrimental effect on care homes.
You’ve had so much experience I can see from TV and radio, to being on government think tanks, can you tell us about these?
In terms of TV and radio they mainly came about when I was fighting for care fees to be free. I can never get my head around the fact that someone can live their entire life and spend everything they earn and go into to care for free. And then someone else could have saved all their life and got their house, and in their mindset, they want to give that house to their family. But then they have had a stroke or cardiac arrest, something has occurred, something unexpected and now they need to go into care. They will then have to sell their house or charges will be applied to the house until it comes down to around £25,000 (wherever the figure is right now). How in the world is that ever seen as fair?
If you could transfer yourself back 30 years ago you would be turning around to every person in their 60s telling them to spend their money! So, whenever I went on TV it was about campaigning that issue.
In terms of thinktanks, I decided that I wanted to become a borough councillor. I put myself up for election and the good people of the area decided that I would be a good representative. That meant that I ended up on a lot of think tanks for health and social care. I worked with CSCI over to CQC, think tanks related to the rights of the elderly – if there is anything to do with care I am normally in and around shouting about it! It is only because I absolutely love the industry!
I used to think in health and social care that everyone was competitor of each other. Now a lot of people are sharing things, it is as if we have come together to fight the cause. Because, we have realised that apart we’re going to get obliterated, but together we’re going to make changes.
I founded the health and social care club with Mark Topps and we have a lot of members coming on there now. It’s so great to see younger people with a fight and a passion helping us older ones out!
Progression within the industry
Anyone who might say that the industry has not changed what I would say is wrong. If you go back to when I first started in those first few days; shared rooms – you don’t see that anymore. There was no en-suite. Some of the care homes out there were not fit for purpose. This has changed dramatically. Training is much better. It can all still improve and be much better.
Areas we do need to concentrate on are the welfare of the staff. We need to do more for the care workers. I know we have the care workers charity; we still need to get that message out to every care staff. Because I come across a lot that have not heard of it. We need to know about what mental health support is out there; and we need to start looking after our carers. If we don’t look after them there will be no one to care.
We also need to change the message up about working in care. Everyone needs to work together. The CQC need to stop being the police, they need to start coming in and saying we’re here to help. The social care badge that came out, we should all be wearing that with pride!
What advice would you have for anyone wanting to work in care?
This is a big one for me. I think we pigeonholed care. We tend to send the message out do you want to work in care? But we are pigeonholing it looking for this ideal, perfect carer. The industry needs more than that. The industry requires maintenance people, high quality chefs, high quality housekeeping, clinicians and nursing, rehabilitation experts, business people. The modern-day manager may start life is a carer; but you are running a business of what could be 100 bed care home with 150 staff. In any other walk of life if you have got a business that has 150 staff you need a proper management qualification or managerial experience!
What I would say is that when I first started working in the industry, the average manager would be earning about £25,000 a year. They would have started as a carer, became a senior, became a deputy and then became a manager. You have managers now that can get £100,000 a year. If you can get £100,000 a year you should be able to attract people of vast quality. We should be going to universities and saying you have got this mindset that we are looking for, the industry needs you. We can attract top quality people to the industry by making them understand that it’s fit for all.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There is one thing that always sticks with me, and that is if you don’t risk anything you risk everything. That is a massive message, to realise you should never stand still. If you think it’s a risk, control it and take it on. Do not be frightened to actually go forward. Change has to happen. And disrupt the hell out of everything!
Don’t get involved in arguments with people who will never understand it from your perspective, walk away from it.
Learn your advice, learn your circles and create people around you who are like minded.