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The importance of health & social services is increasing as European society grows older and unemployment and relocation across Europe increases. This growing demand for services in many Member States is creating unprecedented pressures on health & social care systems. Despite differences in political approaches and institutional frameworks, health and social services in all Member States face similar challenges in adjusting to demographic ageing, societal change, rising expectations and consumerism, changing employment and family patterns, evolving technological opportunities and funding issues. In addition to being an important source of job creation (in excess of 20 million employees), the health and social services sector has an important economic weight, as it generates around 5% of the total economic output in the EU-27.
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A key part of the Social Care sector deals with vulnerable people. A recent report by the Social Protection Committee on the social dimension in the EU2020 strategy stated that greater emphasis must be spent on generating an effective and innovative way of developing the human capital of those responsible for improving the quality of life for vulnerable people throughout Europe. Education and training plays a pivotal role in developing those who work with vulnerable people and, more generally, the social services sector. In many parts of Europe, the sector has a strong emphasis on learning and assessing skills for job roles in real practice environments (“practice learning”). In some qualifications, practice learning can be almost 40% of the total learning time.

There are also on-going demands for practice learning with new qualified professionals and professionals as part of “in-service”/CPD training. There are clear logistical challenges in arranging practice opportunities where trainees are able to learn the core skills of the job and receive high quality support, supervision and assessment of their practice from suitably qualified mentors/practice assessors. Furthermore, finding sufficient numbers of such placements has been a challenge for the last 30 years. However, there are also other challenges; e.g. risks associated with work-based learning and the safety and well-being of service users in giving trainees access to their lives.
Thus, there are vocational skills mismatches and shortages around practice learning in this sector.


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