Care work involves a variety of roles from administration, logistics and practical back-up support, to complex medical care.
The healthcare sector, of which care work forms a significant part, is an amazingly diverse area of employment that offers opportunities to a range of Service leavers. It covers a broad spectrum of roles – from administration, logistics and practical back-up support, to complex medical care. Around one-fifth of all health professionals are employed within the private sector, and many more are self-employed in areas such as physiotherapy, podiatry and holistic/complementary therapies. With life expectancy continuing to rise, employment opportunities within this sector are also likely to increase, for care workers in particular, which is why this article focuses on that role in particular.
If you enjoy helping people and want to make a difference to their lives, the job of care assistant (also known as a care worker or support worker) could be for you. It will require you to help people who have difficulties with their daily activities.
You might work with children, people with physical or learning disabilities, older people or families, in their own homes, in sheltered housing, at day centres or in places like nursing homes.
Working hours vary, depending on the job, and might include evenings and weekends. If you work in a residential location, you may be expected to stay overnight on a rota basis. In some jobs, you might live in.
Skill up while serving
Many people join the Services to ‘make a difference’ to communities and individuals, and there is a very similar ethos within the healthcare sector in general. The ability to work calmly and with initiative while under pressure is a core Service skill that is directly and critically applicable to this sector. Beyond these major attributes are practical Service skills relevant to certain areas of the health sector, such as the ability to drive, operate technical equipment, coordinate people and/or supplies, as well as work with initiative – individually or as part of a team.
TRANSLATE YOUR SKILLS
As a care assistant you will need:
- a friendly and caring approach
- a genuine desire to help people
- the ability to relate to people from a wide variety of backgrounds
- tact and sensitivity
- respect for others
- patience and a sense of humour
- reliability and flexibility
- team-working skills and the ability to use your own initiative
- the ability to work to health and safety guidelines
- the capacity to remain calm under pressure.
WHAT DO CARERS DO?
The exact nature of your duties will vary depending on where you work, but your day-to-day role is likely to include:
- helping with daily personal care such as washing, dressing, using the toilet and feeding
- carrying out general tasks such as housework, laundry and shopping
- helping families get used to new caring responsibilities
- working with other health and social care professionals to provide individual care and development plans.
A common way into this career is to do some volunteering work with an organisation that supports vulnerable people. You can also draw on personal experience of caring for someone you know. Although not essential, there are a number of qualifications that you can work towards (see below), whether you are looking to learn more to get into this career or if you have just started in a paid or voluntary position. You can find a full list of qualifications on the Skills for Care website, which also has more information on routes into this career.
Once you start work as a care assistant you will receive on-the-job training from your employer. You may also attend external courses, e.g. on first aid, food hygiene, health and safety, and how to lift and move people safely. You may also be encouraged to work towards further qualifications, such as the level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care, to become a senior care worker. As your career develops, you can move on to higher-level qualifications.
What can you earn?
As a rough guide, starting salaries can range between £12,000 and £16,000 a year. With experience, qualifications and extra responsibilities or specialist support worker skills, this may rise to £18,000– £21,000. In some cases, free or low-cost accommodation is provided, and you may be paid a higher hourly rate for night shifts and weekend work.