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A Career Guide to Being a Support Worker

Published: Friday 14th February 2020

Pursuing a career as a support worker can be very rewarding, offering a real opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. However, whether it’s providing emotional, physical or social support, the job can also be very challengingso it’s a good idea to think about which sort of support worker role might suit you best, before starting out.

Types of support workers

Male senior care assistant caring about elderly woman

Support worker jobs exist in a range of environmentswithin both health and social care, with different types of people who need help for different reasons. However, for every support worker role you’ll need to be open-minded, patient and empathetic to the issues vulnerable people face. Solid communication/interpersonal skills will be vital to succeeding in support work, as well as a good mix of practical skills for helping people in day-to-day activities involving personal care and healthhelping with household tasks, and supporting people in the pursuit of social activities and hobbies. 

Typical support worker roles include: 

  • Assisting disabled people with day-to-day tasks 
  • Helping people with mental problems to communicate 
  • Supporting addicts with alcohol/drug issues 
  • Helping people apply for benefits/support 
  • Caring for children in social care/nurseries
  • Supporting families in need 
  • Assisting people with learning difficulties 

Male senior care assistant caring about elderly woman

Studying for a career as a support worker

There are four main routes into support work: studying for qualification, applying for an apprenticeship, volunteering or applying for a job directly. While there are no set qualifications required for support work, the right qualification can boost your chances when it comes to securing the role you want. These include Level 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care, or the Level 3 Diploma for the Children Young People Workforce. To be accepted onto these courses, or an apprenticeship, you’ll need four or five GCSEs at grades A* to C, or the equivalent.  

If you don’t have these qualifications, the Care Certificate, introduced in 2015, provides the basic training for someone starting a support worker role. This covers a set of standards that social care and health workers are expected to adhere to and should be covered as part of the induction training of new care workers in CQC regulated organisations. This can later be supplemented with the NVQ Level 2 qualification. 

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Care to volunteer? 

Voluntary work is available in a number of places such as children’s homes, nurseries, refuge centres, probation services, community centres, mental health projects and youth projects. This is a good way to gain experience and find out if a career as a support worker is for you. In fact, many voluntary roles lead to a full time role, even without qualifications. However, most will require you to undergo a background/criminal record check.  

In the UK, most support workers are employed by local council social care departments or the NHS, although support worker jobs do exist with private firms, and, of course, charitable organisationsSalaries vary hugely ranging from £17,000 for an entry level support worker role to £25,000 and above for more experienced support workers and those in management roles.  

For a wide range of support worker jobs throughout the UK at every levelstart with a search on Zoek UK. 

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