This year, the National Association of Care and Support Workers started two critical initiatives for the care industry.
On the 4th of September, we celebrated the first ever Professional Care Workers’ Day. Many providers and stakeholders got involved, and we were even trending on Twitter. We showed care workers that we care about them, appreciate their hard work, and are grateful for all that they do. This will now be an annual event, and we hope it will grow each year to become a huge celebration of care delivery. We want more people to get involved – so please get in touch, as we are already putting the wheels in motion for next years’ festivities and acts of kindness to care workers.
We also commissioned and delivered the results of our first well-being of care workers study. The research project was conducted by Care Research, and 252 people responded and contributed to it. As a result, we now benefit from a good idea of where further research needs to go, and which issues we need to place particular focus on.
The results of our research show there is still a lot of work to do to improve the standing of care and support workers. Worryingly, we found that a typical care worker’s mental health is negatively affected by their job; that they do not feel in a position to take time out to look after themselves; and that stress at work puts them under pressure to leave the industry. Most participants also told us they felt their employer would not support them if they needed time off. As an association for care workers, we see this as a failure to look after the workforce that, every day – in all sorts of weather conditions and often for a meagre pay – look after people to the best of their ability.
Furthermore, although most of those who responded to our survey see themselves as professionals, they do not feel respected as such by their employers or broader society. This is one of the reasons why we are making Professional Care Workers’ Day an annual event, serving as an educational platform about care work for society at large as well. The perception of care work must change, and it must receive the respect and recognition it deserves.
What can be done?
We have several suggestions. We want every care provider to set up staff well-being policies. We want providers to ensure that they look after their staff, with regards to both mental and physical health. The grief care workers experience when people they look after pass away must be talked about and recognised, as well as the need for support in these cases. We also support sensible entry requirements to join the sector, such as registration, and completion of standardised and accredited training that reflects the level of responsibility and the skills the role requires.
We also want proper employment contracts, to give care workers better terms and more job security, followed by decent pay that shows recognition of the complexities and responsibilities of care work. This is where our partnership with the Community Union and joint work and campaigning will focus.
Language matters too: we would like professionals to be known as care workers, rather than carers. A clear distinction has to be made to ensure that care work is seen as a skilled profession and supported as such.
We want to remind providers and stakeholders that a care workforce that is better trained, supported, and respected will remain with them longer. It will provide outstanding care as a standard rather than as an exception, and we all have a lot to gain from this.