Among care home recruitment specialists and within homes themselves, it is common knowledge that many of the people employed in care positions may not have a high degree of proficiency when it comes to the English language. Although people may be able to offer medical and practical care to a very high standard, this may be offset by poor communication skills, which can actually present problems for both care home residents and managers. Literacy levels among care home staff are lower than they should be, and this is often an unspoken truth in the sector.
However, there are steps being taken by various care homes across the UK and hopefully we will continue to see these changes roll out in other places. Programmes designed to improve literacy rates are seeing success, with care home workers and managers alike reporting successful results. Training has been found to work best on a one-to-one basis, as group sessions were easier to run but yielded disappointing results. Personal tutoring is evidently the key to equipping staff with the knowledge and command of the English language they need to excel in care work.
The benefits of improving literacy rates have been even better than expected in many cases. It isn’t just about facilitating better communication between carers and care home residents, although this is the most obvious benefit and it can have a great impact on individual cases where someone might need that extra support. The courses also boost workers’ confidence so they are able to take on new responsibilities that they would have shied away from before, leading to better all round efficiency. Management are also able to communicate better with staff, which is always beneficial and cuts down on mistakes and failings.
On the other hand, the impact of these programmes is still limited in many areas at the moment. The scale of the problem is so vast, considering it is rarely discussed openly, that demand for English communication training far outstrips supply. Many authorities and companies rely on volunteers to train their staff, and struggle to advertise jobs for fear of a backlash. Keeping the entire problem somewhat under the radar is important for many care homes who fear the opinions of residents, family members and the community who might question why people without satisfactory English skills are being hired in the first place. Perhaps the problem goes deeper than it seems on the surface, but for now we hope to see more incremental improvements.