Opinion

Shared responsibility

Karolina Gerlich, CEO and Founding Director, National Association of Care & Support Workers Ltd

This year, NACAS conducted our second round of research on the well-being of care workers. Over six hundred people took part in a survey about their psychological, physical and economical well-being, as well as general perceptions of care work.

81.7% of care workers that took part said that they enjoyed their work and 69.7% said they believed they will continue to work in the sector in the next twelve months.
Comments left by care workers reinforced the view of care work as a rewording job that makes people who do it feel better. One of the participants said:

“I have been on antidepressants after loosing my husband. Going to work in the care sector has helped me have a new lease on life because I am helping people less able than myself which is very rewarding. I also help clients to remain as independent as possible in their own homes.”

Unfortunately, the survey results confirmed a lot of issues in the sector. 24% of participants talked about suffering significant physical injuries, especially to their backs, and only 70.7% reported receiving appropriate moving and handling training and 32.2% reported that they didn’t think their employer would support them with physical health issues.
Only 37.5% of care workers said that they can balance work life and home life well.

23.9% said that care work has had a negative impact on their mental health and 486 out of 628 people said that care work has had both positive and negative impact on their mental health, citing fulfilment together with high stress levels as main reasons.

Almost eighty percent of participants said that they have experienced or have felt close to burn out.

The financial well-being component of the survey revealed the daily struggles that care workers face because of insufficient levels of funding provided to the sector. Only 48.6% of care workers said that their pay covered their basic needs (food and bills) and only a quarter could afford annual holidays. Almost sixty-five percent said that they did not earn enough for a good quality of life.

“It’s lack of pay that is detrimental to my mental health. I’m always worried about if I’m going to get enough to exist, let alone live. “

“We are paid peanuts for the actual job we do for the care we provide, the dedication & love we show & the abuse we sometimes endure physically, verbally & sexually. “

This research gives us hard evidence for what we already thought: the sector is chronically underfunded and people who deliver care suffer terribly from it. Care workers care about what they do and find their work fulfilling. However, they experience very high levels of responsibility. Services run on their good will and their sacrifices. They often forfeit financial security and forgo things most of us feel entitled to such as an annual holiday.

It is our responsibility as a sector to fight for more funding so care workers can be paid what they deserve for their hard work. It is our responsibility to put systems in place to provide more support to care workers. Our recommendations are also for more care providers to train mental health first aiders that can support both their staff and people who use their services. We ask that pressure is taken off registered managers and shared across more staff, with appropriate financial compensation.

Most of all, we want the sector to come together in supporting and recognising the amazing work that care workers do. Professional Care Workers’ Day on the 4th of September – when we launched the well-being report – was a great expression of such solidarity. We challenge and ask you all to make care workers feel special more often and promote more positive stories in the sector.

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