Care Assistants help and support people who cannot manage day-to-day tasks on their own. This could be because of their age, a physical or mental health issue or a severe learning difficulty.
Care assistants work in residential homes, special schools, day centres or in people's own homes.
Also known as
- Night Care Assistant
- Community Care Assistant
- Care Worker
- Home Carer
Video: - Lesley: Home Care Assistant
As a Care Assistant, you will provide personal care to people who need help and support with everyday tasks. The exact type of care you provide depends on the abilities of the people you look after. Basic care could mean helping someone to wash or dress, feed themselves, go to the toilet or generally get about.
Wherever you work, you'll help your clients to keep as much independence and quality of life as they can. You will encourage people to do personal and social tasks, rather than doing the tasks for them. This means that you will be helping many people to keep their self-sufficiency and sense of dignity.
As a Care Assistant, you can perform many different roles:
- children and young people - You'll provide basic care, as well as befriending children, providing social activities and encouraging them to learn and develop. Sometimes you'll supervise children and young people on outdoor activities or visits.
- older people - Working in people's own home or a residential home, you'll provide basic care depending on the needs of the individual.
- night care assistant - Working in a client's own home or residential home, you'll provide basic care cover during the night. Typical working hours might be 8pm - 8am.
- learning disabilities - In this area of care you might work in a special school or in a client's own home, providing specialist care designed to meet their individual needs. This might include having to use alternative forms of communication, such as hand signals.
- physical disability - This could include helping with basic tasks, such as washing and dressing
You could also encourage learning and development, perhaps by helping with classes that teach social skills.
Whichever area you work in as a Care Assistant, you must be aware of changes in your patient's health and mental well-being. You must report any concerns, on issues such as pain, depression, anxiety or loss of mobility, to a care officer or duty officer in charge.
Normally you will work as part of a team. You'll could work with Social Workers, District and hospital-based Nurses, and Doctors.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Care Assistant, you need:
- patience and tact
- compassion and a sense of humour
- excellent communication and interpersonal skills
- the ability to talk and listen to people from all backgrounds
- the ability to work closely with colleagues, such as Nurses and Doctors, Teachers, Care Officers or Social Workers
- to give help and support when people in your care have concerns or emotional problems
- to respect each individual's right to keep as much independence and privacy as they can
- to treat each person as an individual, with different physical and emotional needs
- to be discreet, and able to ease people's embarrassment when you help them with personal tasks, such as washing or using the toilet
- to be willing to learn and develop new skills on-the-job
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate. NHS employees are paid on a rising scale from the Agenda for Change.
- Starting: Band 2 pay of £17,460 - £18,702
- With experience: Band 3 pay of £17,787 - £20,448
- Senior Care Assistants earn Band 4 pay of £20,150 - £23,363
Hours of work
Care Assistants typically work 37.5 hours a week. Shift work, early starts and late finishes are usual. Some employers offer flexitime working, and part-time and temporary work is also possible.
This career could include working on a
Where could I work?
Opportunities for Care Assistants occur in community and residential settings throughout the UK.
- local authority social services and education departments
- voluntary and private organisations that provide residential care
Opportunities occur for Care Assistants to become self-employed, working through health/care recruitment agencies.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on recruitment and employers' websites, and on Find a Job (www.gov.uk/jobsearch).
The following specialist recruitment websites display relevant job vacancies:
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
Qualifications are not always needed for entry, though a relevant level 2 qualification is desirable. Many employers prefer applicants with relevant experience (paid or unpaid) and training in a care environment.
You could study a health and social care course at school or college to help you find out more about this type of work.
Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships in care work may be available in your area. You may be able to study for a NVQ as part of the apprenticeship. Take a look at our information article
Possession of a first aid certificate is desirable.
Once you start work, you should be given the opportunity to learn from other colleagues, attend short training courses or perhaps go to college one day per week to study a course in health and social care. Short courses might include learning first aid, food hygiene or how to move people safely.
In this role you may be required to complete a care certificate before starting work. Take a look at our information article
With further experience and qualifications, it's possible to take on a more specialist role. You could become an Activities Co-ordinator in a residential home, a Personal Assistant or focus on support work with people with mental health issues. Care work is often seen as a stepping stone towards other careers in social care, and can give you valuable experience towards related careers, such as social work.
A university degree, alongside experience, may open the door to other, higher-level opportunities.
Previous experience working in a caring environment such as in a care home or in a hospital would be really useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to. This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
There are no formal entry requirements, but some employers prefer you to have a relevant level 2 vocational qualification. You can study for this at school, college or through an apprenticeship.
Qualifications like GCSEs in English and maths will be beneficial. Any work experience where you care for others should also help.
To get onto an Intermediate or Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need five GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.
A variety of relevant vocational qualifications are available, such as a BTEC level 2 or level 3. Relevant subjects include:
- inducting others in the assisting and moving of individuals in social care
- supporting activity provision in social care
- assisting and moving individuals for social care settings
- health and social care
- awareness of dementia
- caring for children
- children's care, learning and development
- health and social care
- preparing to work in adult social care
- promoting food safety and nutrition in health and social care or early years and childcare settings
- residential childcare
City & Guilds also offer a number of relevant level 2 and 3 qualifications, including:
- assisting and moving
- stroke care
- preparation to work in adult social care
- health and social care (level 1)
A level 3 Cambridge Technical in health and social care will also help you to stand out from the crowd.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Employers usually see relevant skills and abilities and a responsible approach as an advantage.
Intermediate and Advanced Level Apprenticeships in care work may be available in your area.
Colleges usually consider adult candidates who don't have the regular entry requirements. Check the admissions policy of the college that runs the course you're interested in.
Apprenticeships: Get In. Go Far
National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Tel: 0800 015 0400
Local government vacancies
Skills Development Scotland - Modern Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 9178000
myjobscotland: Scottish local government vacancies
Skills for Care & Development (SfC&D)
Skills for social work, social care and children's services
Address: 2nd floor, Westgate, 6 Grace Street, Leeds LS1 2RP
Tel: 0113 2411240
Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)
Address: Compass House, 11 Riverside Drive, Dundee DD1 4NY
Tel: 0845 6030891
Aquestion Of Care
This site is a 'Skills for Care and Development' initiative
Compass Guide: The annual guide to social work and social care
Publisher: Compass Career Opportunities Ltd
Address: The Barn, St James' Square, Wadhurst, East Sussex TN5 6AP
Tel: 01892 784804
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844
Welsh Local Government Careers