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Adfam comments on the current workforce development needs for the sector

In a world of cuts, closing organisations and a seemingly endless stream of bad news it must be tempting for services to exclusively focus on what seems like the basics – the supply of services by practitioners to service users. Training and workforce development may look like unaffordable luxuries at times like these. Adfam believe, however, that workforce development can play a role in improving service provision in a time of cuts – because a competent, supported and motivated workforce is always going to be more effective than one that lacks competency, support or motivation. Service users get better support, and money and time is saved in the long run by more efficient practice.

So what does the workforce need? They need to feel valued, support and trained.

The Skills Hub is a resource developed by the Skills Consortium – a sector-led alliance of organisations - to bring together the ideas and resources of the drug and alcohol treatment sectors to maximise the effectiveness of the workforce. It is a one-stop shop for practitioners. It’s a free online resource relevant to anyone working in the field and is structured according to the Skills Framework developed by the Skills Consortium and the NTA, which maps interventions to every stage of the treatment journey, and contains manuals, guidance, competencies and much more for each intervention and for cross-cutting issues.

The great advantage of the Skills Hub is that its content is to a certain extent user-generated. It is by the workforce for the workforce – if practitioners feel there are crucial resources missing they can submit them to the Skills Hub. This results in a pool of knowledge that draws from the expertise of the workforce it helps – a virtuous circle where the more the Skills Hub is used the better it becomes.

Volunteers are an essential part of the workforce, and Adfam believe that properly nurtured volunteers can work with service users and families to provide vital support. Adfam is running a project to develop a toolkit for volunteers which will provide background information on the law, how benefits are affected by volunteering, as well as case studies and real life stories. It will be aimed at those already volunteering in or out of the sector (whether service-users, ex-service-users of family members) as well as prospective volunteers. There will also be a section for volunteer managers. The toolkit will be released at the end of the year.

As part of this project Adfam consulted people currently volunteering (or volunteer managing) in the sector. Initial findings suggest that volunteers who receive adequate training and effective on-going support and who are valued and feel like an essential part of the team are well placed to play an active role in the organisation they work in. Volunteering can provide the vital experience that ex-service-users need to progress on to paid work. Attendees at the focus group also reported that having something worthwhile to do plays an important role in their recovery. Others volunteer in the same service they had been a service-user and noted that perhaps understandably this brought its own set of challenges and benefits.

Adfam itself is running a range of training courses that will develop the skills of your workforce and increase the efficiency of their practice. Open courses are being run from now until March 2012 for practitioners covering areas of practice including: working with grandparents; working with families involved with the criminal justice system; working with families affected by substance related bereavement; and working with other drug and alcohol practitioners. These courses are all one-day and cost £130 which includes lunch and refreshments. They are being run in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham and London.

Adfam can also provide in-house training for organisations which want to commission training for 10-20 people. The prices are based on a sliding scale of income which aims to ensure that smaller groups can access the training. To book a course or find out more information on the training please email our training coordinator or ring on 020 7553 7640.

When useful resources (such as the Skills Hub), professional recognition and support for practitioners (including volunteers), and effective training combine they produce a workforce more likely to be effective, dedicated and happy. The workforce delivers service-outcomes – practitioners therefore need and deserve a level of support that allows them to improve the lives and increase happiness for some of society’s most vulnerable people.