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Leicestershire Centre for Integrated Living

Why people with disabilities are the best social care trainers

Date: 12/5/2015
Summary: If you work in social care, you probably already know that the skills required are often underestimated – and undervalued. Staff need a complex set of skills and knowledge to provide the best support to the people who need it, whether it’s understanding how to support someone’s legal rights, or having specific communication skills to help people make sense of the world around them. So getting the right training is crucial if you want to provide services of the best quality.

Many care providers rely on their own staff to provide learning for their teams. Although it makes sense to share in-house expertise, it is worth remembering that independent trainers also have a crucial role to play in raising social care standards. Having an objective viewpoint can be really useful when managing difficult team dynamics during training, and delivering effective learning is actually quite a specialist role – a good support worker won’t necessarily be a good trainer. Although in-house training may seem cost effective, it can be a false economy. Developing high quality courses is time consuming and if that’s taking up your staff time, who’s doing the day job? Even large care providers who can employ in-house learning and development professionals will need to draw on external expertise in specialist areas from time to time.

But it’s more than just learning the theory. Skills need to be underpinned by a strong value base, which is why it’s so important to involve the people who matter in training – people who use services and their families. Hearing first hand how the right support has changed someone’s life for the better really makes people sit up and take notice. They realise what they’re there to do and what an important job it is, and it’s that realisation that can have a lasting impact on practice when people get back to work.

So at The Smart Enterprise, although two of our trainers are qualified social care training professionals, we also employ a team of eight people with learning disabilities and a family carer to co-deliver most of our courses. This means that we combine theory with values, using our knowledge of legislation and best practice alongside the expert voices of our co-trainers, so that delegates get the best of both worlds.

But what does “involvement” really mean?. I’ve seen courses where someone with a learning disability is supposedly involved – but in fact, they’re just reading someone else’s words! We recognise that our trainers are individuals and bring different qualities, so we support them on a one-to-one basis, enabling them to use their own words and experiences to meet the needs of learners. We also make sure that we match the right trainer to the right job – not everyone wants to stand up in front of a bunch of strangers and talk about their life. Some of our team prefer to work in small groups, so they might help with a communication session at the end of a course, allowing delegates the chance to put all the theory into practice. We strive to make sure that any input from our co-trainers is meaningful to them and valuable to the learners.

And it seems that our approach is getting recognition – we were thrilled to win the Skills for Care Accolade for best provider of learning and development recently. We asked some of our team why they thought we’d won. “We get paid!” was one response – unfortunately, lots of people with learning disabilities don’t get properly rewarded for their work. Another team member said “Being part of a team, being really listened to, makes the difference”.

But we think the reason can be summed up quite nicely by Rosie, one of our learning disabled trainers. When asked why we deserved to win the award, she replied “Cos we do it well, innit!”

Source The Guardian


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