If you enjoy helping people and want to make a difference to their lives, this job could be just what you are looking for.
As a care assistant you would help people who have difficulties with their daily activities. You could work with children, people with physical or learning disabilities, older people or families.
It would be useful if you had experience in a caring role. When you apply for a job you will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service.
A good care assistant has a friendly and caring approach and the ability to relate to people from a variety of backgrounds. Patience and a sense of humour are also important.
You could work with people (known as clients) in their own homes, in sheltered housing, at day centres or in places like nursing homes. Your exact duties may vary depending on where you work, but could include:
- getting to know clients, their interests and their needs
- helping clients with daily personal care such as washing, dressing, using the toilet and feeding themselves
- carrying out general tasks such as housework, laundry and shopping
- helping clients manage their budget, pay bills and write letters
- helping families get used to new caring responsibilities
- working with other health and social care professionals to provide individual care and development plans
- helping to organise leisure activities
- going with clients to and from a residential home (for example, young people who go to a local college).
You could also work as a personal assistant. This involves working closely with one disabled person to support them in their everyday life.
A care assistant is also known as a care worker and support worker.
Your working hours will vary, depending on your job, and may include evenings and weekends. If you work at a residential location, you may be expected to stay overnight on a rota basis. In some jobs, for example as a personal assistant, you might live in. Part-time hours are widely available.
If you work in the community you may need to travel between clients’ homes.
Starting salaries can be between £12,000 and £16,000 a year. With experience, qualifications and extra responsibilities or specialist support worker skills this may rise to between £18,000 and £21,000.
In some cases, free or low-cost accommodation is provided. You may be paid a higher hourly rate for night shifts and weekend work.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
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.
A good starting point for finding volunteering opportunities is to search through the Do-it and Volunteering England websites. You can also check your local press and contact charities within your area.
When you apply for a job, the employer would normally carry out background checks through the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to make sure that you are suitable to work with children and vulnerable adults. See the DBS website for details.
Although not essential, there is a number of qualifications that you can work towards, whether you are looking to learn more to get into this career or if you have just started in a paid or voluntary position. For example:
- Level 1 Preparing to Work in Adult Social Care
- Level 2 Supporting Individuals with Learning Disabilities
- Level 2 Awareness of Dementia
- Level 2 Diploma in Health and Social Care.
You can find a full list of qualifications on the Skills for Care website.
Both Skills for Care and the Social Care Institute for Excellence’s Social Care TV have case studies about people who work in this field, which give a useful insight into the range of jobs available and what it’s like to work day-to-day in social care.
You may also be able to become a care assistant through an Apprenticeship scheme. You will need to check which schemes are available in your area. To find out more, visit the Apprenticeships website.
Skills for Care has more information about routes into this career on its website.
- Skills for Care (Starting a career in social care)
Training and development
Once you start work as a care assistant you will receive on-the-job training from your employer. This will include working closely with experienced colleagues. You may also attend external courses, for example on first aid, food hygiene, health and safety, and how to lift and move people safely.
If you work in adult social care in England you will be expected to take part in a 12-week induction programme provided by your employer. This will be based on national minimum standards of care, which cover areas such as:
- the role of the health and social care worker
- equality and inclusion
- principles of safeguarding
- person-centred support
- health and safety.
You may also be encouraged to work towards further qualifications, such as the level 2 or 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, such as a foundation degree, social work degree or Level 5 Diploma in Leadership in Health and Social Care.
All newly employed care workers in a children’s residential care setting must either be qualified to a minimum level 3 or be working towards the Level 3 Diploma in Working with Children and Young People (Social Care Pathway) within six months of employment.
Skills for Care has a career development tool called the Career Matrix, which helps you to identify appropriate training and qualifications based on the level of job you do.
The National Skills Academy for Social Care also has details for employers and individuals about professional development, including coaching, leadership and commissioning services. See the website for more information.
Skills, interests and qualities
As a care assistant you would need to have:
- 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
- a respectful approach to clients
- 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 ability to remain calm under pressure.
Skills for Care (England)
6 Grace Street
Tel: 0113 241 1275
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
Care Council for Wales (CCW)
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
You could work with local authority social services departments, private agencies providing care services, or with voluntary organisations.
You could progress to become a senior care worker or shift supervisor. With further experience and qualifications in care, you may be able to move into unit or centre management, social work or set up your own care business.
Related industry information
Adult social care is part of the sector represented by Skills for Care, which is one of the partners that comprise Skills for Care and Development Sector Skills Council. This includes those working in early years, children and young people’s services, and those working in social work and social care for children and adults in the UK. The social care sector comprises two sub-sectors:
- Adult social care – with a workforce of nearly 1.5 million, accounting for 5% of England’s workforce, and 38,000 employers
- Children and young people – with an estimated workforce of 2.7 million
During 2007/08, approximately 2.3 million adults used publicly funded social work and social care services in the UK. Adult social care includes residential care, domiciliary care and social work with all its specialism's.
There are an estimated 1.5 million workers providing adult social care services and more than 38,000 employers. Skills for Care are responsible for the training standards and development needs of social work and social care staff working with adults in England. This includes staff working in local authority social services and related services, the regulated sector (care homes, domiciliary care services and home nursing services), non-regulated day care and community care services, and employed by individuals for their own or another person’s care and support.
- Of the 1.39 million in adult social care in England: 1.31 million are directly employed; and 78,000 are bank, pool and agency staff, students and others
- The adult social care workforce can also include:
- 25,460 full-time equivalent social workers
- 14,000 learning mentors
- 2,247 educational psychologists
- Of the 14,456 care-only homes registered with CSCI* at June 2007:
- 9,870 (68%) are private sector
- 3,251 voluntary sector
- most of the remaining are operated by councils
- Most social care services (58%) are provided by micro organisations (or agencies) employing between 1-10 people or small enterprises (29%) employing between 11-49 people.
- 12% of social care enterprises employ 50-99 people and 1% employ 200 or more.
- In 2007, 54,151 individuals were receiving direct payments to fund their own care.
* CSCI was replaced by the Care Quality Commission in 2009.
Jobs in adult social care include: administrative staff, ancillary staff, care workers, community support and outreach workers, counsellors, first-line managers, occupational therapists, registered managers, senior care workers, senior management, social workers, supervisors, technicians.