While the coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the social care sector for obvious reasons over the past 12 months, it has also opened the doors to new possibilities and opportunities.
Young people, in particular, have an exciting opportunity to immerse themselves in an industry that is brimming with careers offering respect, rewards, and plentiful avenues for progression. The sheer volume of recognition cast over social care throughout the pandemic has brought to the fore stories of bravery, comradery and selflessness that would rival any profession. I would argue that’s what makes this a prime time to join social care – probably the time.
For those who are finishing their education or in jobs that they don’t find rewarding, challenging or meaningful, a position in social care will offer all that and more. Below, I’ve listed some of the benefits of joining the sector in 2021 that I hope will make those pondering a career in social care take the leap:
Key/essential worker status
For decades, social care has lived in the shadow of healthcare, being viewed as the inferior sibling. Times have changed, however, with the sector being thrust into the limelight during the pandemic, and this is just the start. For one, people in the industry now hold key worker status. There aren’t many professions that get such recognition and being a social care worker puts you in this select group of people who are recognised nationally as offering a vital service. That in itself is pretty special and is a title that wasn’t given to social care workers pre-pandemic.
The NHS has always been trumpeted for its work, and rightly so, but now social care is beginning to be acknowledged for its work in protecting society’s elderly and vulnerable; giving them the best quality of life possible by offering places where they can thrive. Having someone’s life; their trust, insecurities, dreams in your hand, is something you can’t get anywhere else – that is a key role.
Priority for healthcare support
Working in an environment where health is crucial, staff wellbeing is paramount. In short, your life is just as important as those you look after. A role in social care provides you with the tools to thrive so you can better yourself and empower those around you. Mental health initiatives such as 1-2-1s and workshops, for example, provide safe spaces to share and seek support on any issues – the industry is very transparent, and help will be given to those who seek it. You’ll struggle to find a better team spirit anywhere else; everyone pulls together and looks out for each other. The overused saying, ‘we’re more like family than colleagues’ actually stands true with social care; it’s one community where the people at board level right down to the frontline workers are all viewed as being on a level playing field.
From a physical health perspective, working in social care means you’ll be top of the priority list when it comes to receiving treatment/medicines. Those operating in care homes are currently in the Government’s top tier for receiving vaccinations – putting them at the forefront of protection. You could be a healthy 21-year-old and vaccinated tomorrow if you worked in social care, but could be waiting until this autumn before being offered a vaccine if you worked in a non-care profession.
Respect from the nation
We saw some incredible stories covered by the mass media over the last 12 months which really highlighted what a career in social care is all about; people going above and beyond the call of duty because they care. Inspirational stories of courage and selflessness, such as those who made the incredibly difficult decision to move into care homes and leave their families behind for weeks at a time, were rightly applauded. These people, however, never asked for the recognition or respect from others, they do the job because they care. It’s not about financial rewards or public recognition, it’s simply about looking after the welfare of others, and while it’s a little sad it’s taken a global pandemic to throw these stories of heroism into the limelight, it’s great they are getting the attention they deserve. Long may it continue this year and beyond.
There are endless possibilities in social care in terms of progression and varying roles. One thing social care isn’t is a dead-end career. At Askham, for instance, you could be a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, nurse, doctor, psychologist and more, as well as having access to specialist equipment such as a hydrotherapy pool and pioneering robotics.
The beauty of the profession is if the opportunity is there and you want it and work hard enough for it, you’ll achieve it. In other words, you get out what you put in, and if you put in a lot, you’ll reap the rewards. You could start as a carer and work your way up to a nurse, then registered manager, or into head office. Indeed, most people at the top of the social care hierarchy have worked their way up the ladder – in this profession, experience speaks volumes. At Askham, we have shining examples of staff who have excelled into more senior roles, purely because they wanted to progress and deserved to. One example is a lady who joined us as a kitchen assistant and worked her way up to become a qualified speech and language therapy assistant, while other care workers have gone on to become assistant practitioners. There is no glass ceiling in social care. If you are determined enough to advance your career, you can and will.
Making a difference
One thing’s for certain in social care, you will be making a significant and life changing difference to people’s lives on a daily basis. That’s pretty special and not something that’s afforded to most jobs in other professions. The decisions you make will directly impact someone’s life for the better, that’s the real reward. There are young people up and down the country working in supermarkets and the like who currently have no long-term career ambitions and it’s those people I encourage to consider a career in social care. There’s a reason so many people who join the profession make a career out of it until retirement.
Joining the movement
There’s a clear change happening in the industry, thanks in part to the events of the last 12 months. More communication channels have opened up with healthcare and with this growth will come more resources and scope to provide even better care. Healthcare settings are realising how fundamental our industry is and that can only be a good thing. There has never been a better, more exciting time to join the movement.
Overall, the points mentioned above are just a few of the benefits of joining social care this year – if I had the space to list more, I’d fill a book! Ultimately, my message is this: for young people who are at a crossroads in their lives and unsure whether to explore a role in social care, if you decide to join our sector, you will be joining a special community of people who will transform your life for the better. Some people mistake that it’s about giving others the best quality of life possible, but it’s important not to forget, that includes you too.
Column done by Aliyyah Begum-Nasser, Director at Askham Village Community, for Care Management Matters, February 2021.