I’ve often spoken of the need to make support and care work a career option, not just a stop gap job for unqualified students or people who don’t know what to do otherwise. It should be something people aspire to do like nursing or teaching, schools should talk to children about it and encourage it. The population is aging and elderly people live long, the disabled population is growing and living longer, there’s no shortage of need for this important work.
I’m an example of someone who started as an unqualified support worker and have made a successful career out of it, however, I still have a rubbish pension and do have to think about my long term financial security. These two articles from The Guardian recently highlight two major problems for support and care workers.
This article discusses the problem of attracting younger people to care work, it is often unglamorous and underpaid so it’s hard to tell a young person that it’s a better choice than the unlikely career in football or rock music. Many people who work in the sector will gladly tell you what a rewarding job it is but without decent pay and development opportunities young people will never think of it as a first choice career. I have met many people who have started in their late 30’s and 40’s as they have realised that their previous pursuits weren’t rewarding and often have a desire to contribute. There is a place for people of all ages in social care work but we do need young people too. Rightfully so, the young people today should be ambitious and have high expectations for their working lives, but unfortunately social care doesn’t present that to them. It is often once you are in it that you realise.
A good career shouldn’t only be about money, but people also need to look after themselves and earning an amount you can barely live off isn’t going to attract or retain staff.
Then this article came along, which to me highlights where some of these fundamental problems start. I have done many sleep over shifts, and you often don’t sleep… An allowance was paid for you spending the night away from home. I thought it was a good deal when in my early 20’s and starting out but the exhaustion ended up being too much for the little reward.
Maybe, organisations should have always been paying the full hourly rate for sleepover shifts, but post-recession many couldn’t afford to do that as everyone was tightening their belts. Now, the idea that these shifts must be back paid to all those staff has come up, it’s good thing where people will hopefully get what they deserve for their hard work, but it’s also likely to bankrupt some organisations having to pay out. I believe the government should support this and use public money to make those payments but that will be a controversial opinion. The cost of not doing it will lead to a crisis in care and support. Once some organisations have to close their doors there will be a deficit of people to provide for those in need which will put pressure on all care services. These workers should have been paid correctly in the first place so this marks a step forward in their rights, but if the financial impact is as severe as it looks it might mean they are out of jobs anyway.
The problem in both is about how care and support staff are regarded and also how provider organisations are regarded. Good pay and conditions for care staff should be demanded, you or one of your loved ones will need care and support in their lives, and I’m sure you all want qualified, well paid, happy people doing that job. Clearly it’s time for legislative change around this, there is legislation that makes it clear what care providers should do but little to offer them support in doing it.