A Cedefop research paper investigates quality in generic competence training in the social care sector
Quality assurance in the social care sector: the role of training analyses the range of competences (skills, knowledge and attitudes) that social service managers and front-line workers need, identifies innovative training programmes, and makes policy recommendations for improving training in the field.

Social changes have led to a greatly increased need for care services, especially for the most vulnerable – the elderly, the homeless and the disabled. As a result, the sector has expanded into one of the largest providers of jobs. Yet the field continues to be understaffed and undervalued. In the EU-27, over 21 million people are employed in health and social services. This represents an increase of 24% since 2000 and 10% of the total workforce in 2009. And despite the crisis, employment in the sector continued to grow in 2009.

The social care sector is itself in flux. It is moving away from institutions and into the community – i.e. bringing services to the users, rather than bringing users to services. Social services also increasingly function in a market-driven environment. There is a need for the sector to become more demand-driven and effective. For this, generic competences, rather than specialist skills, are needed.

This is the focus of Cedefop’s study, which includes a literature review of generic competences, including communication, entrepreneurship, leadership, transdisciplinary teamwork, and knowledge management skills.

The study also reports from focus groups set up in five Member States with different social care traditions – Germany (services to the elderly), Poland, Portugal, Sweden (services for people with disabilities) and the UK (services for the homeless). These reports serve to identify similarities and differences in social care and to define the generic competences needed to respond to the sector’s challenges.

Eighteen case studies of innovative training are examined to determine whether their successes can be duplicated elsewhere.

The study ends with policy recommendations, including five measures to ensure quality in training. These include the involvement of stakeholders, cooperation with knowledge centres, programme flexibility, and assessing the effects of training on the quality of care.

Facts about the social care sector:

  • 78,5 % of all care workers are women (Eurostat Labour Force Survey, 2009).
  • Many care workers are migrants, who are likely to be less familiar with local care traditions, less proficient in the local language and new technologies, and less qualified - or less likely to have their qualifications recognised.
  • The share of employment in health and social services is relatively low in southern, eastern and central countries, and higher in the North and West of Europe. It ranges from a little over 4% in Cyprus and Romania to over 18% in Denmark.