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Care Work……..Skilled?

Guest blog from

Jenni Mack, Marketing Executive at Holmes Care Group

Back in March a published Migration Advisory Committee Report definitely ruffled some feathers in the Care Industry by claiming that those who work in care are unskilled which is reflected in their pay bracket. In reality care workers are some of the lowest paid employees in the United Kingdom but is this a true reflection of their level of skill?

Care Workers on average earn the national living wage which is Scotland is approx. £9.10 an hour. Even working full time hours this leaves them under the £24,000 salary threshold which the government have stated that skilled workers earn.

This rate of pay is in line with staff who work in supermarkets stacking shelves, staff cleaning offices, or staff who serve food in fast food restaurants. Suddenly in this time of lockdown these are the people who are still working to keep the country afloat.

Before beginning to go into the role of carers it is important to say that although I will go on to discuss a carer’s role in detail I am in no way taking away from other living wage roles.

So, what is involved in the role of a Carer?

Carers are frontline staff who spend 12 hours a day looking after every need of those in their care. This ranges from physical personal hygiene, dental care (including specialist knowledge of dentures etc) nutrition (including specialist knowledge and skill of textured diets, diabetic diets and those who receive an enteral feeding regime) fitness (some occupational health) and a specialist knowledge of conditions such as dementia and how these affect individuals. These are just some of the most important areas of care.

Much like a parent –carers must deal with a wide range of situations, and occurrences in the first instance, dealing with many themselves but also knowing when to seek support and where to get it from.

Generally the type of people who work in care are by nature caring and as a result become somewhat attached to those they care for. This is often frowned upon but in reality is an occupational inevitability and it could be argued that this only increases the level of care provided.

With this attachment comes feelings of grief and sadness when an individual in care dies. Care workers are required to continue on with their job role without showing their sadness so that those who are still being cared for are not negatively affected. This in itself is a skill to accomplish.

So, apart from working in a role which is physically demanding for up to 12 hours a day (manual handling, on feet almost full shift) the role is also mentally demanding. Working with residents who have various life limiting conditions which often affect mood, and behaviour some staff are subject to violence, hurtful comments and more but with the caring nature and understanding of these conditions a care worker understands that these are not intentional and sees the person underneath who simply needs care, help and support and continues with their role as before.

Care work is governed by the Care Quality Commission (in England) and the Care Inspectorate (in Scotland) and must follow standards set by these independent regulators of all health and social care companies in the UK. In Scotland all staff working in the industry must also be registered with the SSSC (Scottish Social Services Council) And in England it’s the HCPC (Health & Care Professionals Council). Being registered with these councils allows you to work in the care industry but also means that your behaviour and life choices even out with work are monitored and could cause you to lose your ability to work in the industry.

In addition to this care staff are now required to gain an SVQII in Health and Social Care in order to work in the industry.

A direct quote from the Scottish Qualifications Authority website states that:

Upon successful completion, learners will gain an international recognised qualification which guarantees that they have the skills, knowledge and abilities required to carry out their role successfully.

And yet, the government still believes care workers to be Low Skilled despite the mention of skill in their reasoning for this new qualification requirement.

Having worked in the Care Industry for 4 years I find it baffling that anyone would consider this a low skilled job. Even more baffling is the fact that the new requirement for qualifications in care have made no change to this opinion by parliamentary officials.

So if we go by this gauge of measurement for skill observation. Does this mean that as the average wage of a member of Ambulance Staff is £23,300 that they are also unskilled? And as the average wage of a doctor is £41,494 which is £22,277 less than the average lawyer can we assume that a doctor is therefore less skilled than a lawyer?

If this COVID19 pandemic has taught us anything it is surely that the care industry (along with other key workers) is one of significant importance and should not be underestimated?

Carers who care for our loved ones in care homes, or our children in nurseries etc have a huge responsibility when doing their jobs every day. The skill required is obvious to any who have interactions with these everyday heroes. Carers already receive less financial compensation that other workers in the UK so let’s not take away their dignity by classing them as unskilled to suit government agenda.

To carers everywhere. Keep up the amazing work! We are all so very grateful for your many skills!

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