Care Workers' Guide (2019)
Are you a caring person who enjoys helping those in need?
If so, care work may be your perfect career.
With an ageing population, there’s a huge demand on the health and social care sector in the UK, with more people seeking assistance than ever before.
Fortunately, this is where our dedicated community of care workers plays such a vital role.
People suffering from health conditions and disabilities rely on their input every single day; support which helps them remain independent and live happy, meaningful lives.
What Is a Care Worker?
A care worker is a paid professional who supports those with health conditions and disabilities, from children to vulnerable adults and the elderly.
A care worker mustn’t be confused with a carer, which is usually an unpaid role, undertaken by a family member or friend.
What Do Care Workers Do?
The role of a care worker is diverse and multi-faceted, depending on a client’s needs. Here are some examples of typical services that care workers provide:
- Help with shopping
- Accompanying for appointments or social engagements
- Domestic responsibilities such as housework
- Meal preparation and cooking
- Mobility assistance, including transferring people using hoists or helping them from their bed to chair or chair to toilet
- Personal care
- Medication prompting
- Pet care
- Communicating with families
What Are the Different Areas of Care?
Health and social care services are numerous and you could work with children in care, adults with physical or learning disabilities, addiction issues, mental health problems or those with other social or emotional needs. Here are some examples:
- Elderly care
- Dementia care
- Neurological care – conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease
- Brain injury
- Learning disabilities
- Postoperative cases
- Mental health
- Palliative or end of life care
What's It Like Being a Care Worker?
Care working is a hard, but rewarding profession. Many people are drawn to their job because they want to give something back.
Perhaps they’ve seen a loved one receive care and recognise they could make a contribution to families in a similar position. Most care workers are motivated to make a difference in the lives of the people they touch. Indeed many in our community see the profession as more of a calling.
Some encounter care work at an older age, possibly coming from a completely unrelated career. With life experience under their belt, these individuals can often relate to their clients more effectively.
On a practical level, with such a diverse range of clients, each day can look very different. Out in the community, you could visit a client with a neurological condition such as multiple sclerosis, which requires a full spectrum of care, before escorting another client to a social engagement or day care centre.
What Are the Benefits of the Role?
Many of the care workers in our community talk about how rewarding their work is. Work that allows them to have a meaningful impact on others.
Often they have a desire to see their clients flourish and more than anything, it’s the small daily wins that can mean the most.
Breaking the ice with a new client, and putting a smile on their face. Calming down an anxious person who doesn’t recognise their surroundings, or earning the trust of an individual’s family to help a loved one.
Care workers experience the joy of using their skills to help others live happier lives.
What Are Some of the Challenges of the Job?
While it can be an extremely satisfying vocation, care work does come with unique challenges and may not be for everyone. Therefore it’s advisable to perform your due diligence when considering the care sector as a career.
Care work can be a very physical job. Although good manual handling is paramount, assisting people with their activities of daily living can be tiring and it’s essential that you look after your own physical health.
The psychological impact of the role must also be considered. Many of our care workers develop extremely close bonds with their clients and families, which can be extremely hard when a client has a deteriorating medical condition or approaches the end of life. Care workers are usually an emotional source of strength for everyone around them and must remain professional even at the most difficult times.
Clients can sometimes be challenging to work with, especially if they value their independence and now rely on someone else for help. Others might have medical conditions such as dementia, eliciting behavioural changes which require patience and understanding to manage. Good communication is essential when dealing with families, who may show signs of stress when loved ones require support.
You also have to be willing to get stuck into the role. Attending to the needs of vulnerable individuals who may be unable to wash, dress or get to the toilet alone requires a special kind of person who regards care as a vocation rather than simply a job.
What Skills Do You Need for the Role?
The most important attributes are soft skills. Compassion and empathy are huge factors in care work, where dealing with challenging situations is the norm.
Helping clients who may be immobile or forgetful requires patience and understanding.
Often you’ll be a lifeline for your clients. They may feel anxious, upset or isolated and your visit may be the highlight of their day. Approaching situations with openness, friendliness and clear communication will allow you to thrive in your role.
Do You Need Any Qualifications to Be a Care Worker?
You don’t necessarily require any formal qualifications like GCSEs or A-levels to become a care worker, although some employers may find them desirable.
Your values and attitude towards the work are far more important.
Some employers might look for an NVQ Level 2 or 3 diploma in health and social care. However, this is something you may choose to work towards when you’re in the job.
Many people choose to become a care worker because of a personal experience with the profession. Perhaps you’ve looked after a loved one or they’ve received care; this may be experience you can put to good use in a professional context.
If you don’t have any experience of the care industry, but would like to get started, some companies offer care worker apprenticeships to learn the skills needed to work in a professional capacity. These apprenticeships can pay £6-7 per hour.
Outside of formal qualifications, working with vulnerable individuals means that care workers must be vetted for any criminal convictions via a DBS check.
Also because many forms of care work are delivered in the community, in people’s homes, a driving license may be required.
Care Worker Training
When you’ve started as a care worker, you’ll be placed on a 12-week, nationally recognised (as specified by the Care Quality Commission) induction by your employer to teach you the necessary skills to work safely and effectively.
The Care Certificate covers 15 core modules and has now replaced the Common Induction Standards (CIS) and National Minimum Training Standards (NMTS).
What’s more, the Care Certificate forms preparatory work for the NVQ in health and social care, which some care workers may choose to pursue.
What Career Progression Is Possible?
After gaining experience as a care worker, you might be keen to develop your skills and contribution.
There are many opportunities in the health and social care sector. Extra training is available to give you the skills and opportunity to specialise in areas like dementia or mental health. Alternatively, you might wish to move into a management, supervisory or training position, inspiring new care workers in the role.
With the relevant experience, retraining as a social worker, physiotherapist or occupational therapist may also be an option.
How Much Are Care Workers Paid?
The starting salary for a care worker is generally around £12,500-16,000 a year. With career progression, you may find this increases to £17,000-19,000k per year. Senior care supervisors may earn up to £25,000. The national average is around 15-16k per year.
As a private carer, you may set your own hourly rates, which can vary by the time of day and increase during night shifts.
What Hours Do You Work?
A working week can look very different depending on the area of care you cover. A typical working week will be from 35-40 hours, although many people are drawn to the job because of the flexibility it provides. Often you can arrange to work part-time.
The hours can sometimes be considered unsociable, with evening and weekend work required depending on the role. Sometimes night shifts are available when clients require closer supervision or live-in care.
Who Can You Work For?
Some care workers are self-employed. Websites exist to help care workers list their services, skills, reviews and availability. Individuals in this instance may set their own rates.
Otherwise care workers might work in the community for home care agencies, and in residential or nursing homes (care homes with nursing).
Care Worker Jobs
There’s currently a huge demand on the health and social care sector, with jobs routinely advertised. Numerous job boards exist to help care workers find a position.
Before applying for any job, it’s sensible to be proactive and research the company you wish to join.
Ask questions, such as whether the company ethos matches your own and how they treat their clients and staff. This will guarantee a good cultural fit and ensure you’re able to give your best to your clients.
Care Worker Grants
Care workers don’t generally enter the profession for the money. Rather they pursue a deep-seated desire to give something back to their community.
Many care workers earn the national minimum wage, and because of the challenges of the role, can often fall on hard times.
Physical and psychological demands take their toll, and despite the commitment and dedication to their calling, care workers are sometimes the ones who need help.
This may be true of active or retired care workers, or someone working in a professional care setting. Our mission at The Care Worker’s Charity is to ensure that no care worker faces hardship alone. We exist to help those most in need get back on their feet by providing hardship grants.
Click here to view the eligibility criteria and apply.