Happy Birthday to the Care Certificate

It’s now five years since the Care Certificate was launched in England in April 2015.

With the latest statistics showing that 68% of frontline health and social care staff have engaged with the Care Certificate, let’s refresh our minds as to what the Care Certificate is as well as answer some of the commonly asked questions from throughout the health and social sector.

What is the Care Certificate?

The Care Certificate is a set of 15 standards for new health and social care workers. The standards define the knowledge, skills and behaviours expected of specific job roles in the health and social care sectors and should form part of a comprehensive induction programme.

Although this certificate is most commonly undertaken by new employees, it is also available for existing staff who need / want to refresh their knowledge and understanding of the field. For CQC regulated providers, the Care Certificate is something that is expected of care workers who are joining health and social care, from April 2015 onwards.

The Care Certificate is for all care support workers, clinical NHS workers, assistant practitioners, healthcare assistants, and anyone else who is working directly with patients in their everyday role. It can be used in lots of clinical settings such as hospitals, residential and / or nursing homes, domiciliary (home) care and hospices. In addition, the Care Certificate may be used for staff in other caring roles such as: volunteers, porters, cooks and drivers with direct contact with patients/ service users.

The standards are:

  1. Understand your role
  2. Your personal development
  3. Duty of care
  4. Equality and diversity
  5. Work in a person-centred way
  6. Communication
  7. Privacy and dignity
  8. Fluids and nutrition
  9. Awareness of mental health, dementia & learning disabilities
  10. Safeguarding adults
  11. Safeguarding children
  12. Basic life support
  13. Health & safety
  14. Handling information
  15. Infection, prevention & control

Each standard has learning outcomes and assessment criteria associated with it. The Care Certificate is awarded by the employer when the member of care staff has completed both the skills and knowledge aspects of all 15 standards.

Brief history

The Care Certificate was a recommendation of the 2013 Cavendish Review, which looked in detail at the care sector and highlighted areas of concern. One issue raised was that the training given to healthcare assistants and social care support workers to prepare them for their roles was vastly inconsistent. The report recommended the development of a Certificate of Fundamental Care: the ‘Care Certificate’ for use in England.

The Care Certificate was developed jointly by Skills for Care, Health Education England and  Skills for Health. Launched in April 2015, one of the main aims of the Care Certificate was to standardise introductory skills, knowledge and behaviours for a variety of roles. By doing so, the goal was that workers will all be able to provide high quality, safe and compassionate care.

Benefits of the Care Certificate

Helen, a specialist health and social care trainer, who has worked with the Care Certificate since 2015, says “The 15 standards provide health and social care workers with the fundamental knowledge and skills to be able to provide a high quality of person-centred care to patients and clients.”

Other benefits include:

  • Standardisation: The Care Certificate means that all support workers, regardless of what area you are working in, should have a common standard of initial training. For example, if you’re working in an orthopaedic ward as your first job, then you’ll have done the same minimum training as somebody working in a learning disability care home.
  • Confidence: The Care Certificate enables staff who are ‘new to care’ to have the confidence that they are doing the job correctly right and working to the same required standards as those members of staff who are more experienced.
  • Job satisfaction: As well as gaining skill and knowledge, the Care Certificate aims to make staff feel valued.

No formal 5-year review has taken place – research is ongoing to determine the longer-term impacts of the Care Certificate, e.g. increased retention of support workers, support workers progressing into more advanced learning and whether generally people feel more satisfied with their job and field.

The Care Certificate in practice

Although the Care Certificate is available to all health and social care staff, it was primarily designed for those workers who are new to social care. Skills for Care’s annual report  ‘The state of the adult  social care sector and workforce in England’ published in September 2019 showed that:

  • 60% of new care workers have engaged with the Care Certificate.
  • 70% of new senior care workers have engaged with the Care Certificate.

Engagement was highest in domiciliary care services, where 75% of care workers had achieved, were in the process of completing, or had partially completed the Care Certificate

Top tips for care providers

  • It’s not possible to do the Care Certificate using just e-learning. A blended approach to learning is essential.
  • All staff will have different learning needs. Make sure you are aware of all the different learning resources available in your area. Remember that there’s lots of free resources on Skills for Care’s website. 
  • Try to have different learning activities available to suit individual learning styles. and work with individual staff to decide which resources suit their needs. For example, some staff will learn best by reading material, some by discussion and some by listening.
  • Give staff enough time to learn and practice their new skills. Use the guided time of 12 weeks flexibly – some people will take longer and some will take less time.
  • Take time within your induction programme to embed your organisation’s values. This will help staff embrace the principles of person-centred care.

Frequently asked questions

Care Certificate – how, what, where, when?

1. Is the Care Certificate mandatory?

The Care Certificate isn’t mandatory per se, but, as it is endorsed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) there is an expectation that employers in England will offer it. The CQC expects care providers to induct, support and train their staff appropriately so they will look to ensure that whatever your organisation is doing with its training, it covers the requirements of the Care Certificate.

2. When would someone aim to achieve the Care Certificate?

Ideally you should start the Care Certificate when you first start your post, e.g. as a Healthcare Support Workers or Adult Social Care Worker. There is no fixed time for completion of the Care Certificate. However, on average it takes full-time staff 12 weeks to achieve the Care Certificate.

3. Do you have to re-do the Care Certificate if you change jobs?

No, the certificate is designed to be portable. So, if you change jobs you do not need to achieve the Care Certificate again. Similarly, if you are an employer and you employ someone new, if they have completed the Care Certificate elsewhere they do not need to achieve it again. Employers are expected, however to help staff retain / update their knowledge and competencies.

4. Does the Care Certificate replace inductions?

No. The Care Certificate might cover some parts of an in-house existing induction, but all organisations will have specific needs (e.g. surrounding policies) that the Care Certificate will not cover.

5. How long does it take to complete the Care Certificate?

The average time taken for a new employee to demonstrate the expected competences and knowledge is 12 weeks. This may vary according to the training needs of each individual and the resources available to employers.

6. Do agency and bank staff need to undertake the care certificate?

It depends on their experience levels. Providers of health and social care have a legal duty to assess the training needs of all staff new to their organisation, including agency and bank workers. The initial assessment may indicate that a new member of staff needs to receive training in all, some or none of the care certificate standards before providing care unsupervised.

7. Does the assessment have to be completed in the workplace?

There are a number of aspects of healthcare that are covered in the care certificate and depending on which one is being undertaken where is it assessed can vary. However, most assessments should be completed where the care is being provided and best practice is for the assessment to be completed face to face.

8. I am a lone worker. Can I work whilst completing the Care Certificate?

The workplace assessment parts of the Care Certificate are equally important to those working in the community and home care as any other health and adult social care service. Once your internal induction has been completed you can work alone provided your Registered Manager is satisfied that you have the competence for the tasks required.

9. Is the Care Certificate equivalent to NVQ 2?

The Care Certificate is not equivalent to NVQ 2 or to a Level 2 Diploma in Care. The Care Certificate is aimed at new care staff, whereas the Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care is the next progression on from the Care Certificate.

10. Does the Care Certificate cover people who work with children?

The Department for Education is mainly responsible for children’s social care. It was not involved in developing the Care Certificate and is not promoting its use in children social care settings.

Care Certificate assessment & training

1. Who can assess achievement of the Care Certificate?

The assessor can be anybody who is competent in both
the skills and the knowledge of the competencies being assessed. In addition, there’s an expectation that the person will have had some training in the role of an assessor. There are no specific qualifications required for this as it varies from employer to employer. Download resources for assessors here.

2. I want to become a Care Certificate assessor, what should I consider?

To be an assessor you must have a thorough understanding and direct experience in what you’re assessing. If you are considering taking on this role you should look at the information and resources available for assessors.

3. Can a training provider award the Care Certificate?

No. Employers may use a training provider to deliver the teaching and learning. The training provider may also provide some assessments. However, it must be the employer who awards the Care Certificate. This is because only the employer can assess work-based competencies.

4. Are there any training providers ‘licenced’ or ‘accredited’ to award the Care Certificate or associated training?

No. No provider has been ‘licenced’ to award the Care Certificate as such a licence does not exist. See the shared statement from Skills for Health, Skills for Care & Health Education England regarding the Care Certificate and training providers including elearning.

5. Can you achieve the Care Certificate from eLearning alone?

No. The Care Certificate is a combined demonstration of skills
and knowledge. eLearning will help with the knowledge-based aspect, but competencies still need to be demonstrated in the workplace.

6. What if you are highly experienced?

If you’ve been working for a number of years, it’s expected that you should already have the skills, knowledge and competencies included in the Care Certificate. You may be able to fast track your completion of the Care Certificate as your employer may be able to easily record a demonstration of competencies in the work place.

7. Are there free Care Certificate resources available?

Yes. There are a number of free materials and workbooks available. These have been updated based on user feedback. Find more Care Certificate downloads here.

Using the Skills Platform, you can search for Care Certificate eLearning courses here.

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