Care workers are not heroes

Karolina Gerlich, CEO, The Care Workers Charity

Care workers are not heroes. This may sound like an insulting comment but read on. Heroes are superhuman beings who do what they do out of feeling of duty, because they have superpowers and free of charge to society. The grateful smiles and clapping from the public are enough for them. Most of them do not worry about paying for bills, food and petrol.

Sure, heroes and care workers have lots in common – helping other people every day – making the lives of other people better, but calling care workers heroes is, in fact, taking away from their profession.  You wouldn’t call a lawyer a hero, would you? You recognise that they are professionals who have studied, learned, honed their skills and are paid very well for it. Sadly, this is not the image or the reality for a care worker despite also being a professional who has studied, learned, and honed their skills.

By dictionary definition

  • a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. “a war hero”
  • 2. someone who gives of himself, often putting his own life at great risk, for the greater good of others

In these respects – particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, care workers could be seen as having heroic qualities yes, but what do heroes receive? Gratitude? Claps? Good Press? These are all lovely to have, but these things won’t pay the bills and can even diminish care workers’ morale even further. Especially that the good press was short lived in 2020.

For some care workers (and indeed all who work any role in the social care sector) can feel burdened by this “hero status” being left feeling like they have no choice but to accept their current conditions as it’s their duty to do the job they do. This puts the social care workforce in a position where it is easy for the government to take advantage of its good and giving nature and continue to push it beyond its limits without the proper funding, robust workforce reform and without the respect and recognition necessary.

There is another reason why care workers should not be called superheroes which is something I have come across in many places but most recently in a post from Neil Crowther. Care workers are not superheroes because people who draw on social care are not the enemy.

I can’t remember how many times I have had to make the point of togetherness of people of draw on support and care workers in meetings and at conferences. It is not a matter of either/or. It is not a choice where we must choose a side and we can only support the wellbeing of one. Because one cannot exist without the other. People who draw on social care need care workers to support them to live the lives they want to live. Care workers need people who draw on social care to have jobs that they love. They are beautiful relationships and just thinking about the ones I had with people I supported when I was a care worker makes me tearful.

Building these beautiful relationships takes amazing skills and experience and should be paid for properly not with heroic titles and half-hearted claps and poverty wages. While we campaign to change that we have had to support over 9000 care workers with over 5 million pounds so they can cover their basic needs and continue working in the jobs they love.

Help us help more care workers.



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