What does a care assistant do?

The role of Care Assistant, or Care Worker as it is also called, is an in-demand profession right now. According to the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (NMDS-SC), “an estimated 18,000 organisations [are] involved in providing or organising adult social care in England” – that constitutes approximately “1,319,000 adult-social-care sector jobs (excluding Personal Assistants)”. But given that “care” is an umbrella term with various applications, it’s natural to ask: what does a Care Assistant do?

We spoke to Marie Heslin, the Registered Manager of Merseyside’s Sandley Court Care Home, to find out…

How would you define the role of Care Assistant?

Marie Heslin: “A Care Worker is someone who supports an individual in achieving the best possible outcomes within their lives, by assisting with personalised care and treatment in a caring, safe environment, while respecting and promoting their choices. These choices may be just their mode of dress and style, bath or showers, diet, activities, access to the community, shopping and socialising, and so on.”

What formal qualifications are required to be a Care Worker, and what do you think are the most important personal qualities a person needs?

“Care Workers should have or be training for an NVQ Level 2 or a Diploma in Health and Social Care. The people who make the best Carers in my opinion are not always those with high grades in GCSE, or A-levels, but those who are caring and have practical skills, are patient and who are happy to work as part of a team. I feel good staff are a care home’s most important and vital resource and should be valued as such.”

What does a Care Assistant do?

Image: iStock

What are some of the particular challenges people thinking about a career as a Care Assistant need to keep in mind?

“There are many challenges in care work, not just unsociable hours 24/7, 52 weeks a year, but also situations that are less than perfect, relating to the demands of very vulnerable people, who may also be suffering from ill health, both mentally and physically, and are often very frail (who love you one day and forget you the next). The rewards come by smiles and improvements to health and wellbeing that the Carer has helped bring about. Finding out about the lives of each person who needs support can create emotionally rewarding bonds for both the Carer and the person being cared for.”

Where do you think the profession of Care Worker stands in 2016?

“Care Workers are increasingly in demand as the population is living longer due to the improved changes in healthcare and living standards. As a result, there are more Elderly Mentally Infirm (EMI) homes being built around the country, along with sheltered housing (Care in the Community businesses), that can accommodate our aging population.

Because of that, coupled with the fact that there is a steady decline in the retail industry as people are turning to online shopping, more and more young people are turning to care work as a career. When I advertise online for new staff, I have noticed that more applicants are not just from retail, but also male. My last two apprentices were young men who, after completing their training, now have full-time jobs. One came as a result of his work experience with us and the other came from retail.”

What does a Care Assistant do?

Image: iStock

Beyond helping people, what are the other perks of a career in care?

“Working in the care sector could lead to one in nursing or medicine. People with children, especially, choose to work in the care profession because they can fit their working hours around when babysitters are available – weekends, evenings and night shifts. The training is provided in-house and this, along with experience, can lead to promotion in the long term. And for parents whose children are old enough, this promotion opportunity can, in the long term, lead to full-time work and the consequent higher income that goes with this.”

Finally, for you personally, why do you think care work provides great job satisfaction?

“Over the past 30 years, I’ve found a great deal of job satisfaction in care. And, yes, it is all worthwhile for that smile and seeing family members, so often retired themselves, being grateful that their loved ones are settled and happy in their later years.”

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