I started work in the care sector 32 years ago as a young, slim care assistant with a full head of hair. At the time it was very unusual to find another male. But that was a long time ago, surely things must have changed by now. I know I have, I’m now older, heavier and bald, surely the care sector has moved on too, haven’t they?
Sadly not, Skills for Care estimate 1.62 million people currently work in social care in England, an increase of 9% in the past 6 years. This number is predicted to grow to 2.42 million by 2035. Yet despite this huge rise in employment only 17% of the total workforce is male.
Novacare found 29% of all care jobs in Scotland were done by men, higher than England but still not reflective of those receiving support.
If there is nothing inherently male or female about the skills required to be a good carer, the what factors impact men choosing care as a career?
Numbers versus Hours
It is important to understand the difference between men as a percentage of the workforce and the actual number of hours of care they deliver. Whilst the percentage of men in the workforce is low, the number of hours worked tends to be higher. The Office of National Statistics found that almost two-thirds (62%) of women in employment work part-time, compared with less than one-quarter (24%) of men. So male carers could in fact deliver twice the hours we originally thought.
Legal requirements versus Preferences
Contracts, written agreements and regulations rarely stipulate the gender of those delivering care. However, according to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulation 9), people who receive care have the right to express preferences as for who looks after them.
The interpretation of this regulation usually considers specific religious or cultural beliefs relating to gender, it does not exclude men. For those who deliver or manage care services introducing male staff even as part of a mixed gender team brings a positive response for service users.
Unpaid male carers for family members
It is not all bad news, men account for 42% of unpaid carers for family members. The role of supporting a family member is often a 24/7 commitment, especially for live-in carers. There are few legal protections and health services are often slow to recognise the vital role the carer provides.
Research by Carers Trust and The Men’s Health Forum has shown that unpaid male carers do not tell other people what they do, while half of male carers feel that their needs are different to those of female carers.
Despite having worked so hard to recruit your care team, Skills for Care latest report shows the national turnover amongst care workers grew to 39.5%. This is the highest increase since 2012-13, at 11.1 percentage points.
According to the report, staff were more likely to leave their role if they were younger, relatively inexperienced, lower paid, had higher rates of sickness and were on a zero-hours contract.
Whether paid or unpaid we need to encourage more men into the care sector. They have a valuable role in meeting the needs of the ever-increasing number of people requiring support.
To achieve this, we must work together to address some of the barriers to entry including:
- Eliminating the stereotype of care is solely a female role.
- Educating the public about the benefits of male & female carers.
- Gaining support for gender equality from regulators and contractors.
- Supporting better inductions and training for all care staff
- Improving rate of pay across the workforce
- Delivering fixed hour contracts where requested