Page 12 - TalkingCare_Issue3_WebVersion_OACP Winter 2017
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THE KINGWOOD TRUST|CAREER PATHWAY|EXPLORING WHY PEOPLE
WORK IN SOCIAL CARE
  Why do
people
CARE about
working in
social care?
A recent quantitative study from The Kingwood Trust explored the reasons why people decide to work in social care. The research has resulted in some interesting outcomes. Kate Allen CEO explains more...
An employee’s day working in the social care sector is never dull! Social care support workers can find themselves assisting a person with brushing their teeth in the morning, preparing a meal at lunch time, then going to see a show in the afternoon. Each day is different, exciting and varied. However, it can also be hard work and emotionally and physically challenging. Social care work (not be confused with social workers) is a career that is fulfilling, but one that comes with great responsibility. Yet, it is acknowledged that workers in social care rarely get the reward and recognition they so rightly deserve. So, why do they do it? Why do people choose to work in social care?
With an estimated 0.5 million people with autism in the UK and 1.5 million people with a learning disability, perhaps our most vulnerable members of our community rely heavily on social care and its amazing support workers. The help and assistance support workers provide allows this vulnerable group to live their lives to the full. There is no doubt, that this is invaluable work and, fortunately, many people do choose to work with adults with autism and/or a learning
disability. A recent quantitative study from Thames Valley charity – The Kingwood Trust explored the reasons why people decide to work in social care. The research has resulted in some interesting outcomes.
Kate Allen distributed to The Kingwood Trust a questionnaire to 160 social care employees and received 106 responses, a 66% response rate. Whilst the majority of responses were from women, encouragingly, responses from male workers accounted for 39% suggesting there is a clear career pathway for men to take up social care support roles. Employee ages ranged from 18 to 70. What was really interesting was the variety of backgrounds and work experience of those who took part in the study. Previous employment history ranged from catering assistant to postman, chef to accountant. The evidence collated shows that the ‘social care support worker’ is both multi­skilled and multi­ talented. What this indicates is, that whatever a person’s employment history, social care offers a career pathway that not only recognises the skills and talents of the individual, but understands that their life experiences are a valuable asset to working in social care arena.
Of particular interest, and value to the sector, was that the most common factor guiding career choice was the influence from friends. Furthermore almost half of those involved in the study had become aware of their job vacancy through word of mouth. Online advertising was the second most popular method with less than a quarter of participants responding to a newspaper advert. With the demand increasing and resources decreasing, utilising the existing workforce to promote vacancies can be a very helpful approach. It follows on that, where an organisation already has established a respectable reputation and is perceived as a good employer to work for, the message existing employees inherently share will be a good one and will influence potential new applicants.
Other results from the study support research spanning 40 years recognising the power of ‘word of mouth’ showing us it still has a vital place in recruitment campaigns. However, society has changed, the world is a fast moving technology driven communication environment and today ‘word of mouth’ can be seen reflected in such applications as Facebook, twitter, What’s App and a plethora of other ‘chat and social communities’. Employers today must surely explore and harness such technologies, in addition to traditional methods, to achieve even better recruitment results. For example ­ encouraging and incentivising employees to share organisational vacancies on their social media sites could be a simple way to ‘bring word of mouth’ into the 21st Century.
Nonetheless, when asking those employees who had been influenced by friends about their level of job enjoyment, they rated their enjoyment less than those who had applied for the role on the advice of parents, the Jobcentre Plus or just bychance. Oneexplanationforthiscouldbe
that the job description provided by friends didn’t match the reality of their daily work. This finding could be resolved by employers providing a wider range of ways to explain the role of the support worker, ensuring that applicants have a clear view of what the job entails. Going further, employers could provide information online in addition to that outlined in job advertisements, giving clear explanations of the role on their company websites – a case study. Other methods to explain the various social care job roles could be creating short films and stories about a ‘day in a life of a care worker’.
The Kingwood Trust is an autism­specific support provider and it found that more than a third of employee participants had a friend or relative with autism. This is a significant proportion of the workforce and it is a reasonable assumption that this finding may be replicated in other similar organisations. With this in mind, employers could consider focusing on increased advertisement in physical and online locations where families and relatives are most likely to visit. A workforce with a pre­existing understanding of the challenges faced by a person with autism, or a learning disability, or other condition, will have a wide range of experiences and skills to share and bring to the job.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given that it is a caring profession and workers in social care are renowned for their compassion, the majority of employees rated job satisfaction as the most important factor they considered when they applied for their current role. This was followed with a desire to work specifically in the learning disability and autism sector. Interestingly, this would suggest that some applicants do not apply generically to all care providers but that they target vacancies. Job security was also a significant factor in their last employment decision, the second highest, which maybe to be expected given the challenges faced in the sector. Longevity in the market, financial security and reputation could be important factors for local providers to highlight during recruitment drives.
Of particular interest, was the finding that, the relationship between the person being supported and the social care worker was of great significance. 100% of the responses received highlighted that the relationship was a fundamental factor in job satisfaction. This agrees with existing research, that found getting to know the person being supported not only helped to lower stress levels, it helped employees cope with the challenges faced at work. Traditionally across the sector, strong client and social care worker relationships have been frowned upon as it can result in both parties misplacing the professional boundary between employee and friend with grave consequences. Furthermore, concerted efforts have been undertaken to ‘professionalise’ the care sector to reduce the risk of poor conduct and abuse. So what should employers be doing? Workshops debating and discussing professional boundaries along with the provision of clear guidance can be
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