There are over 1.6 million people working in the care sector in the UK, either in nursing or residential homes, or going into clients’ own homes and providing care for elderly people or those living with a disability. This number of carers is only going to rise as the UK population ages, and many agencies are struggling to recruit enough trained and committed staff to meet their needs. If you’re considering a career as a carer here’s what you need to know.

Different Roles in the Sector

There are a huge number of different roles within the care sector, ranging from support staff working in hospitals alongside nurses or doctors, to staff working for an agency and seeing a number of clients over the working day, to staff in care homes for adults with learning or physical disabilities. The exact nature of the role will depend on the setting as well as the previous experience and qualifications of the person applying for the job. Usually a full job description will be given when applying for a position.

Responsibilities of a Carer

Most care workers have similar responsibilities in their work, irrespective of the setting where they are employed. Care workers are often responsible for personal care of their clients, so helping them with bathing, getting dressed, eating or brushing their teeth. They are also usually responsible for making sure the clients take medication as directed by their doctor. They may also take charge of feeding their clients, or helping them with preparing food. Light housework and help with laundry or vacuuming might also be required. Carers who work closely with one client might also help them with social activities such as shopping, or taking them to day centres or other activities.

Training and Qualifications

Many organisations recruiting carers put more emphasis on personal qualities than on academic qualifications. People going into care work must be caring by nature, compassionate and physically fit. They have to juggle a range of different responsibilities, manage their own time and treat their clients with respect. Basic numeracy and literacy skills will help carers with record keeping and reporting when required. Carers also have to undergo an enhanced DBS check, which is required for all people who are working with vulnerable adults or children. Many employers will pay for DBS checks for their employees, but they may not be able to start work until their certificate is received. Organisations working in the care sector will be aware of the process required for doing DBS checks on their staff.

Career Progression

Many care agencies offer ongoing training to their workers, and there is often the opportunity to undertake NVQ or similar qualifications for career progression. Getting a formal qualification will help you move onwards to a different role with a new employer if you are ready to make the next move. Most carers have managers and supervisors, and these are people who are often promoted from within the organisation rather than recruited externally.