Thousands of carers across Suffolk and Norfolk are to be given additional training and progression opportunities as part of a £7.5million investment.

Eastern Daily Press: Beccy Hopfensperger, adult care cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, said the efforts of carers had been 'incredible'. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEEBeccy Hopfensperger, adult care cabinet member at Suffolk County Council, said the efforts of carers had been 'incredible'. Picture: SCC/SIMON LEE (Image: Simon Lee Photography)

Suffolk and Norfolk county councils were successful in securing £3.79m from the European Social Fund in October for the scheme, which aims to help retain carers in an industry which traditionally struggles keeping workers.

Around 6,000 will benefit from the upskilling programme, which includes specialist level two qualifications, a mentoring programme, entry level certificates, functional skills programmes and management qualifications to help carers improve business skills.

MORE: Carers to continue visiting Suffolk homes during COVID-19 pandemicCouncillor Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult care, said: “This is an incredibly exciting project as we can offer qualifications to our workforce and improve the quality of care to those who need it.

“The qualifications we aim to deliver will have a strong focus on person-centred care.

“Our staff are hard-working and caring, but we’re aware that around half of them do not have a relevant qualification. This programme will offer them the chance to develop both professionally and personally, hopefully becoming the leaders and managers of the future.”

It also aims to help encourage care as a career with progression opportunities.

According to local data, only around 50% of carers have a relevant qualification, with the 6,000 who will be trained as part of the scheme representing around 12% of the adult social care workforce. Project manager Ed Fraser said it was “a considerable amount of people that in and of itself is a huge commitment”.

The qualifications programmes were due to start in April but will now be pushed back while the coronavirus pandemic continues, and is expected to run for at least 24 months.

The remainder of the funding has come from the councils, delivery partners and health organisations.

Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult social care, said: “Local health and social care workers do vital work, supporting our most vulnerable residents to live healthy and independent lives for as long as possible.

“Working in the sector can be extremely rewarding both professionally and personally and this ambitious programme of funded training will empower everybody working in health and social care to grow their skills to continue providing quality care and support while having the chance to develop their own careers.”

The roots of the project started nearly four years ago, with project bosses hoping it will help keep staff in the industry, encourage others to consider a career in care and see a benefit for patients.

Lucy Hohnen, assistant director for workforce at NCC, said: “One of our aims is to lift the profile of the social care workforce. By doing this as a joint programme we can elevate how the public and professionals see them.”

While the skills programme is to run for two years, the team is hoping it can continue beyond that.

MORE: Public urged to celebrate carers during coronavirus pandemicLoretta Greenacre, head of workforce development at SCC, added: “It’s not just two years to train people – the real message is that health and social care is a really valued profession and you can progress and develop yourself in that. This is the catalyst to start doing it on a long term basis.”

More information is to be published once the programme launches.