Mark Topps
October 28, 2021

Mark Topps

Social Care Column with Mark Topps: 7 Things to Consider Before Starting a Role in Social Care

Working in social care is without a doubt one of the most rewarding jobs, but it can also be one of the toughest. It doesn’t matter about your background or how old you are, if you want to support people and have a rewarding job, there’s a social care role for you.

Here are my top things to consider before choosing a career in social care.

My top tips

1. Who do you want to care for?

It’s important you know who you want to support as this will depend on the service and environment you choose to work in.

There are lots of different people you can choose from, including adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, people who have substance misuse issues, mental health conditions and older people.

There are many care providers supporting people with these different needs, the most popular services you could work for are:

Care homes

This service provides 24-hour accommodation for people who need support in their daily lives. You’d be expected to be on shift for a set period of time.

Nursing homes

This service is the same as a care home, but there’ll be a registered nurse on every shift.

Home care / domiciliary care

This is when people receive care in their own homes. You’d be expected to travel from one customer to another to support them with their daily needs – a driving license is usually a preferred requirement.

Live in care

This is where people want to stay within their own homes and either require support for most of the day and/or would like someone for companionship. The role can vary depending on someone’s needs and the amount of time you’ll be expected to stay living with someone can also vary (often agreed between you and your employee).

Supported living

This type of service is for people who don’t want to live in residential care but are finding it difficult to manage at home. You’d be expected to support people in their home for a period of time. This role is not exclusive to one customer and therefore you may be expected to travel from one person to another.

2. Working hours and type of contract

There are numerous contracts that organisations offer and it’s important to know what the best contract is for you.

The two types of contracts are:

  • Zero-hour contract / bank contract
    This is contract between you and your employer, whereby the employer is not obliged to provide any minimum number of working hours to you. There’s also no expectation that you have to pick up/work a set number of shifts per week. You’ll get basic social security benefits which include maternity/paternity pay, holiday and health insurance.
  • Guaranteed hours contract
    This contract is where you’re guaranteed a stated minimum number of hours of work in a defined period of time (usually a week). Different care companies offer different guaranteed hours/contracts, ranging from 15 hours up to as much as 45 hours.

3. Role and career pathway

There are so many roles within social care and no matter what role you start in or where you are in your career path, there are always opportunities to develop and progress, which is one the greatest things about working in the sector

People can progress within the industry in two ways:

Sideways

Into the same or different type of job with similar responsibilities which could involve working in a different setting or with a different group of people.

Promotion

Be promoted into a job with more responsibility which requires new skills, knowledge and qualifications. Typical roles include:

  • Care Worker
  • Chef / Cleaner
  • Coordinator / Activities Coordinator
  • Deputy Manager
  • Lead Coordinator
  • Lead Supervisor
  • Office Administrator
  • Roles in Accounting / HR / Marketing / PR / Recruitment
  • Registered Manager
  • Senior / Supervisor / Lead Care Worker / Care Champion (in a chosen subject area)
  • Training Manager / Trainer
  • Operations / Regional Manager / Business Manager
  • Operations / Regional Director.

4. Be emotionally resilient

I can’t begin to stress how important this is.

You’ll be working with people who require lots of support with their physical and mental health needs, some people may be at the end of their life and some might have behaviours that challenge. So, it’s important that you:

  • Don’t take things to heart or personally
  • You de-brief should anything arise, so that you have the chance to look at what has happened, why it happened and what could be done going forward to prevent it from happening again in the future.

The best way to achieve resilience is to be self-aware, a lot of people working in health and social care focus on the person they’re supporting and their needs, neglecting their own wellbeing.

“If you know your limitations and what you’re able to cope with, this will allow you to deal with stresses more easily.”

5. Training, learning and development

This is one of the biggest things you need to consider. What training you need to progress in your career and upskill your knowledge, skills and confidence?

I’d strongly recommend asking the hiring manager about training opportunities at the interview to ensure that the company you’re going to work for supports any training you are interested in.

If you begin working for a company and they hesitate or delay your training, speak with your manager about the reasons why and if you don’t get offered training, then look for a company that will provide it.

“I waited 2 years with one company to undertake a qualification but was enrolled within two months after joining a new organisation!”

6. Review organisations and ask around

Don’t just settle for any role in social care! There are so many roles available and so many organisations to choose from – the world is your oyster and you have the ability to be picky!

Check reviews online, ask friends and people who work in the sector, and when you go for an interview, ask the staff you bump into what it’s like to work for that company.

7. Skill set

Although you don’t need any qualifications to work in social care, it’s the values and behaviours that you hold that are the crucial thing. Qualifications can be gained whilst working in a role within the sector.

Unfortunately, many people (including politicians) say that you don’t need to be skilled to be a care worker or to work in social care, and that’s a load of utter rubbish! Care workers are highly skilled professionals! Don’t let this statement put you off as these (skills) are things that can be taught.

“The 2 biggest things you truly need to be are caring and empathetic.”

Other skills you can bring or learn along the way are:

  • Open-mindedness
    You’ll need to be willing to do the activities people you’re supporting want to do.
  • Communication
  • Writing
    You’ll be expected to keep factual documents about the care and support you provide, fill in reports if you support someone to attend an appointment etc.
  • Basic maths knowledge
    This is beneficial is you’re supporting people to purchase items as you’ll be expected to fill in finance records. If you’re administering medication, you’ll be expected to count tablets etc.
  • Respect
    You’ll be supporting people from all walks of life and it’s important to put your personal opinions aside.
  • Friendliness and confidence
  • Flexibility and reliability
  • Sensitivity.

You can do it!

The pandemic has highlighted how many sectors are fragile and many people have lost their jobs, however social care is one of the only growing industries with a great potential for career progression.

There are many roles within social care, whether that’s on the frontline or more removed commercially. Regardless of the role, if you want to make a difference to people’s lives, then social care is for you.

As always, I’m happy to be contacted if you wish to discuss this further. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter.