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Tuesday, 03 April 2007

A Career In Social Care In Northern Ireland

Written by The Editorial Team

Are you good at listening and supporting others? Do you enjoy working with people? Can you see things from different points of view? Are you sensitive, patient and understanding?Do you like variety and change?

Yes? ...then social work could be the career for you!

Why Choose Social Care?

Many of us, at different times in our lives, may need extra help to cope with everyday living. This could be for a variety of reasons for example the impact of disability, illness or ageing. Social care workers provide that extra help.

Social care is about building relationships and providing practical and emotional support for people to enable them to realise their potential, take control of their lives, and live as independently as possible.

Social care work can be demanding, but it is immensely rewarding. It requires a wide range of personal qualities such as patience, understanding, sensitivity, empathy and the ability to listen and support. If you have these qualities, and want to do something worthwhile, then social care is the career for you.

Working in social care offers the chance to enter a flexible career with a huge range of jobs to choose from. You should be able to find a job that suits your own circumstances, stage of life and work experience.

You can work full-time, or part-time to suit your family or other commitments. Whatever you choose, you will be doing a job that makes a difference to the quality of life for the people you work with.

Job Opportunities In Social Care

There are almost 40,000 social care professionals working in Northern Ireland (NI), making up 90% of the social services workforce. 75% of the social care workforce is employed in the private and voluntary sectors, with 25% employed in the statutory sector to provide social care services for adults, young people, children and families.

This includes;

• Older people
• People with acute, or terminal illness
• People with physical health disabilities
• People with learning disabilities
• People with visual and hearing impairments
• Families, children and young people in need of support
• People with mental ill health
• People who are homeless
• People with alcohol and/or drugs dependency

This variety of services creates a wide range of job opportunities including working in people’s own homes, in day centres, in community centres, and in residential or nursing homes.

A career in social care offers challenging opportunities to work with adults, families and older people. Social care staff ensure that practical, social and emotional support is provided to the highest standard
of care.

Read on to find out more about working in social care, the experience and qualifications required and the opportunity for career development as a social care worker.

Working With Adults In Their Own Homes

Social work assistants, home care workers, domiciliary care workers or care assistants are employed to organise and provide professional care and support for people in their own homes.

This team ensures that practical assistance is available for older people and adults with specialist needs due to physical, mental or learning disabilities. This support helps the individuals to live as
independently as possible and is crucial to the family members who are caring for them.

Duties can include helping people to get up in the morning, preparing meals, and providing personal care (washing and dressing for example).

Staff can be trained in the use of hoists, manual handling, food hygiene and first aid, where these are part of the care required.

The care provided is tailored to meet the person’s needs, and may involve many calls over the course of the day by a team of staff. The care given is vital to maintaining the person’s quality of life.

Working With Adults In Day Centres

Day care workers or support staff are employed in day care facilities throughout Northern Ireland, to provide services for adults with mental health problems, physical or learning disabilities. Day care is also provided for older people with specific difficulties, such as dementia.

Social care workers help provide a range of activities and opportunities for people using the centres to promote their independence, develop new skills and interests, alleviate social isolation, build self esteem, improve self confidence and thereby help them develop and maintain social contacts and skills.

Day care workers also provide personal care for people who need assistance with everyday tasks such as toileting, feeding and mobility.

Day care services are crucial to the support of carers and assist people in maintaining their quality of life within their own community.

Working With Adults In Residential & Supported Living Accommodation

Supported living accommodation allows people to live in independent units, but supported by staff. The care provided varies from around the clock to just for a short period each day. It is often a long term
arrangement.

Within residential and nursing care, a care assistant’s job is to assist with meeting the personal, social and emotional needs of the resident as part of a staff team. The care provided can include helping people with washing, dressing, feeding and toileting.

The majority of individuals using these services are older people who can no longer cope at home. People of any age who are very disabled can benefit from such care and sometimes people can require this type of assistance following a spell of severe illness or hospital admission.

Care workers can also assist individuals to access a range of activities that are important to their lives such as attending outings, shopping or maintaining links with family and friends.

Working With Families

Family support workers and family aid workers are employed as part of a professional team to provide emotional and practical support for families, children and young people.

They can be based in family centres or may visit families regularly in their own homes. Families are assessed by social workers and the service provided will depend on the particular issues of each family.

Staff work to ensure that the best interests of the children are secured and that families are kept together where possible. They support parents to acquire and maintain parenting and home management skills to improve the physical and emotional care of children, to play with their children, to deal with conflict and behaviour difficulties or manage their household budgeting better.

Experience, Qualifications & Training for Social Care

Having some relevant voluntary or unpaid experience and the right qualities may help when you apply for jobs in social care. Most positions do require that you are able to communicate sensitively and effectively.

You would also be expected to work within a team, as well  as with other professionals, such as social workers and health care workers.

Social care workers have to be nonjudgemental, understanding, patient, have good listening skills and be committed to supporting people in difficult circumstances. They may also need to be flexible about the hours they work and the range of duties they undertake.

A general requirement for entry to employment in the social care profession is to undergo induction training within the first weeks of employment. This provides the basic knowledge and skills to ensure
that employees are ‘safe to begin work’ – a requirement for the whole social care workforce.

Some posts may require formal qualifications, normally National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs), which require formal assessment of competence. However, it is also possible to obtain these qualifications after starting work in social care.

Social care workers are expected to regularly update their skills and learning and to develop their professional competence through in service courses and work-based qualifications such as NVQs.

Advice For Young People Wanting To Work In Social Care

The Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) has developed trainee frameworks for young people who want to follow a vocational route whilst in full-time education. Further information on these
frameworks is available from the Department of Employment and Learning at www.delni.gov.uk

Younger people still at school may wish to study a vocational qualification in Health and Social Care at GCSE and A-level standard.

This will give them an understanding of working in social care and help prepare them to consider a career in social care. School careers advisers can provide advice on choosing these options.

Social care workers often work with people who have complex care requirements.

To ensure that these people receive care from suitably experienced workers there may be some additional supervision arrangements for young people in some services.

For more information on this issue contact the NISCC Information Service.

Career Development For Social Care Workers


Working in social care allows for career progression and development. As staff obtain experience and qualifications, there are opportunities to progress to more challenging positions such as senior care assistant or senior support worker It is expected that staff progressing to more responsible roles would undertake NVQs appropriate to the job role.

NVQs in Health & Social Care specify the tasks and skills required for workers at specific levels of responsibility. Completion of an NVQ demonstrates a worker’s skills and competence at each level and area of expertise.

Level II—Social care assistant / support worker
The recognised professional qualification for this job role is an NVQ Level 2 in Health & Social Care.

Level III—Senior care assistant / senior support worker
The recognised professional qualification for this job role is an NVQ Level 3 in Health & Social Care.

Further Advice About Qualifications & Training

Careers Services For NI

If you are still at school, and are interested in a career in social care, talk to your school careers teacher. Alternatively you can contact your local careers service office, located at your nearest Jobs & Benefits office for careers advice.

Go to www.delni.gov.uk and click on How can we help? to locate contact details of your nearest careers service office.

Alternatively, you can contact the NISCC Information Service for a list of social care contacts.

Educational Guidance Service for Adults (EGSA)

If you are an adult intending to return to education and seeking advice on what to do next, you can contact your local EGSA office.

EGSA staff are employed in eight offices across Northern Ireland and staff are available to answer questions you may have about adult learning opportunities, such as qualifications, awarding bodies, funding, distance learning opportunities and finding a course.

Contact details are as follows:
Tel: 028 9024 4274
Email: info@egsa.org.uk
Website: www.egsa.org.uk

Colleges of Further & Higher Education (F&HE)

For more information about social care courses, contact your local college of Further & Higher Education (F&HE).

All the colleges have a career guidance or information service to help you find the right course. Most colleges also hold information days where potential students can obtain information and advice on all full and part-time courses offered and get the opportunity to speak to tutors and career staff.

If you log on to the Department of Employment and Learning website www.delni.gov.uk and follow the links to Further and Higher education – you can find online information about your nearest college, the courses on offer and funding for study. Contact details are also available in the NISCC Social Care Contacts booklet.

Northern Ireland Social Care Council

The NISCC Information Service advises on training for careers in social work and social care.

Information leaflets such as Social Care Contacts can be downloaded from the website www.niscc.info or by emailing info@niscc.n-i.nhs.uk to request a copy.

Finding A Job

Jobs in social care are provided by all of the Health and Social Services Trusts (HSST), and by voluntary and private organisations.

Vacancies are normally advertised on the likes of  www.careappointments.co.uk and in the main newspapers such as;

• the Belfast Telegraph (Tuesday/Friday)
• the Irish News (Thursday)
• the Newsletter (Thursday)

Vacancies can also be found by searching your weekly newspapers, or by going to your job centre. Vacancies placed at the jobcentres can be accessed online through the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) website at: www.jobcentreonline.com

You can also contact your local HSST or a voluntary or private organisation directly to
enquire about job opportunities.

Contact details for the HSST, voluntary and private organisations and employment agencies specialising in social care can be found in your local telephone directory or by logging on to the online yellow pages service at www.yell.co.uk

Alternatively, you can contact the NISCC Information Service for a copy of the Social Care Contacts booklet.

Over the next few years, all social care workers in the statutory, private and voluntary sectors will be registered by the Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC) on the Social Care Register.

The aim of the Social Care Register is to make sure that social care workers are suitable for
employment in the social care sector and to ensure that those who do not meet the required standards in their conduct or practice can be removed from the register.

Registration recognises the commitment of social care workers to provide high quality services and brings increased professional status to the workforce. Registration of this large and varied workforce has already begun with social workers and social work students already registered.

Domiciliary care managers and adult residential care workers will be registered during 2006-2008. The final phase of registration will run from 2008 to 2010 and will include social care staff in day care, social work assistants and domiciliary care workers. If you are applying to work in one of these settings, your employer will advise you when you need to register and how to go about it.

For more information about registration, log onto www.niscc.info or contact the NISCC registration team by telephoning 028 9041 7633 or emailing registration@niscc.n-i.nhs.uk

Produced by:
Northern Ireland Social Care Council
7th Floor Millennium House, 19-25 Great Victoria Street
Belfast BT2 7AQ

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