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Social Care Worker

Social care workers help vulnerable people to cope with the challenges of everyday life.

They provide support to meet each person's individual needs, which may include help with:

  • preparing meals
  • shopping and other outings
  • washing
  • eating
  • going to the toilet
  • dealing with emotional difficulties.

They may support:

  • young people in care
  • people with mental health problems or learning disabilities
  • people with physical disabilities
  • older people
  • disadvantaged children and families.

Social care workers may work:

  • in people's own homes, to help them live independently
  • in residential care homes and day care centres.

They may work alone, but are usually part of a wider care team, including care managers, social workers, doctors, nurses and therapists.

Home care assistants and support workers often work standard office hours. Those

based in care homes are likely to work shifts. There are many opportunities for part- time and flexible working.

The work can be physically and emotionally demanding. Some roles require bending, carrying and lifting.

Salaries start from around £11,000, rising to £28,000 for senior posts.

A social worker must be:

  • responsive and approachable
  • able to relate to all kinds of people
  • caring
  • resourceful
  • patient
  • persistent
  • sensitive to different cultures and religions
  • able to empathise while keeping an emotional distance
  • comfortable with providing close personal care
  • aware of the need for dignity, privacy and confidentiality
  • able to keep records and write reports.

Employers include local authorities, NHS trusts, voluntary organisations and private care homes.

For many roles, there are no set entry requirements. However, many employers may look for work or volunteering experience in a care setting. Some also expect a health and social care qualification. It may be possible to enter as an apprentice.

Initial training lasts around 12 weeks, or 24 weeks for those working in childcare. After this, social care workers can study towards vocational qualifications such as NVQs.

After some experience in the role, social care workers can take on senior or supervisory roles. With further training and qualifications they could advan

What is the work like?

Social care workers provide personal care to help vulnerable people cope with the challenges they face. They aim to increase people's independence, choice and control.

They work with people in a range of situations, such as:

  • young people in care
  • people with mental health problems or learning disabilities
  • people with physical disabilities
  • older people with restricted mobility or other problems
  • disadvantaged children and families.

The support they provide depends on individual needs, and may include:

  • discussing needs with people, and with their partners or families if appropriate
  • preparing meals and helping with shopping, cleaning and laundry
  • support with dressing, washing, eating, drinking, and taking people to the toilet
  • emotional support, discussing the challenges people face and helping to raise their confidence
  • accompanying people on outings - for instance, to collect benefits or a pension.

There are several different types of social care worker:

  • Some workers provide personal care for people in their own homes. They may have a 'round' of clients, visiting them regularly. They are sometimes called home helps or home care assistants.
  • Support workers offer the help people need to live independently. For instance, they might act as an advocate for a disabled person in claiming benefits, or accompany them on social outings.
  • Where someone needs more intensive support, a worker may help them with all aspects of daily life. In some cases they may live in the person's home. They are sometimes known as personal assistants.
  • Some workers are based in residential care homes and day care centres. Besides offering personal care, they may help to organise games and social activities, to provide physical therapy and mental stimulation. They may also accompany people on occasional outings to the theatre or places of interest.

Social care workers are generally part of a wider support network, which may include care managers, social workers, doctors, nurses and therapists. As the person with the closest relationship to those using the service, they need to be aware of any significant changes in their health or care needs, and to raise this with others if necessary.

In care homes, workers are part of a team. Those who work in clients' own homes spend much of their time working alone. They may be accompanied by a colleague to help with heavy tasks, for instance to transfer someone from bed to bath using lifting equipment.

Social care workers usually need to keep daily records of their work.

Carers in hospitals and community health settings are part of the healthcare team - for more information see Healthcare Assistant.

Hours and environment

Working hours depend on the role. Home care assistants are more likely to work standard office hours; those based in care homes generally work shifts, including some early mornings, nights and weekends.

There are many opportunities for part-time and flexible working.

Work settings include people's own homes, children's residential units, nursing homes and adult day care centres. A driving licence is useful for those travelling to home appointments.

The work can be physically and emotionally demanding. Some roles require bending, carrying and lifting. Protective clothing, including tabards and gloves, may be worn for some tasks. Personal alarms are often provided for security.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Social care worker salaries start from around £11,000 a year.
  • Those with experience and qualifications may earn £14,000 to £18,000.
  • Senior social care workers and team leaders may earn up to £28,000.

Skills and personal qualities

Social workers need:

  • to be able to communicate with, and listen to, people from all walks of life
  • a caring and approachable manner
  • to be adept at handling difficult people and situations
  • initiative and resourcefulness
  • patience and tact
  • perseverance
  • sensitivity to different cultures and religions
  • to be able to empathise, while keeping some professional detachment
  • to be comfortable working in close personal contact
  • an awareness of the need for dignity, privacy and confidentiality
  • report writing and IT skills
  • reasonable physical fitness.

Interests

It is important to:

  • have a genuine interest in people and their welfare
  • enjoy providing personal care and practical support.

Getting in

Many social care workers are employed by local authority social services departments. Others work for NHS trusts, for voluntary organisations such as Barnardo's, or for private residential care homes.

Some social care workers are self-employed, or find work through agencies.

The social care sector is growing, due to the ageing population and the trend to provide more care in community settings where possible. Many people using services now have their own personal budgets and can choose their own carers. Young disabled people often prefer to have a support worker from their own age group.

All applicants for social care jobs undergo Criminal Records Bureau checks. For some jobs, entrants must register with the General Social Care Council, agreeing to work to a national code of practice.

Vacancies are found in local newspapers and JobCentre Plus offices. The websites www.lgjobs.com and www.jobsgopublic.com list current local government jobs in the UK.

Entry routes

There are no minimum entry requirements for many social care jobs. Personality and enthusiasm are usually more important than qualifications. However, many employers may expect a qualification in health and social care or some experience of working or volunteering in a care setting.

A wide range of qualifications is available in health and social care subjects. These include A/AS levels, BTEC, City & Guilds and OCR courses. There are also specialised courses in caring for particular groups of clients.

The Diploma in society, health and development may be relevant. It introduces the principles and values of social care, and focuses on how agencies work together to meet people's needs. It includes a work placement of at least ten days.

For some roles, entrants need to work towards NVQ Level 2 in health and social care. Those in some community, support and outreach roles may require at least one year's relevant experience plus NVQ Level 3 in health and social care.

Training

Induction training provides the basic skills and knowledge required. It usually takes 12 weeks, or 24 weeks for those working in childcare. Local managers lead most of the training, though sometimes external trainers might lead short courses.

After this, social care workers and apprentices can study towards vocational qualifications, usually NVQs at Levels 2, 3 and 4 in health and social care.

Getting on

With experience, it is possible to progress to more senior roles. For instance, home care assistants might be promoted to home care organiser or manager; outreach workers could advance to community support services manager.

Further training and qualifications could enable social care workers to take on professional roles, such as social worker.

Further information

Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC), 2nd Floor, City Exchange, 11 Albion Street, Leeds LS1 5ES. 0113 244 6311. Website: www.cwdcouncil.org.uk

General Social Care Council, Goldings House, 2 Hay's Lane, London SE1 2HB. 020 7397 5100. Website: www.gscc.org.uk

Skills for Care, Albion Court, 5 Albion Place, Leeds LS1 6JL. 0113 245 1716. Website: www.skillsforcare.org.uk

Social Care Association (SCA), 350 West Barnes Lane, Motspur Park, New Malden KT3 6NB. 020 8949 5837. Website: www.socialcareassociation.co.uk

Social Care Careers, Department of Health. 0300 123 1100. Website: www.socialcarecareers.co.uk

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

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