It's a pivotal time for the care sector. As people live longer and require more support to live life to the full in old age, the shortfall in carers is expected to reach 718,000 by 2025. We need to rise to the challenges of our ageing population, but in order to do so, we need to challenge the frankly tired and out-dated perceptions of care. Society needs to recognise the invaluable work carers do and what the sector can actually offer its employees in return.
Some 75% of people believe those working in care don't receive the status or praise they are due, according to Anchor's new YouGov research. It's clear that society acknowledges that carers do deserve more appreciation, especially compared to premiership footballers, reality TV stars and hip hop artists that topped our poll as the most overvalued of jobs. However, whilst many can recognise that carers are undervalued, old perceptions die hard, like the long-held view that working in care is 'women's work.' The need for male carers is becoming particularly important: Anchor's Grey Pride manifesto highlighted that in 1 in 4 men will need supporting in a care home setting in the future. Many older men who currently live with Anchor have told us that they would like to see more male care workers with whom they can talk about shared experiences and hobbies.
Working in care is actually far from what many people might imagine it to be. There are a variety of roles available, most of which offer flexibility, career progression and at least a living wage. Our recent research showed that a lot of the key benefits of working in care came out as elements many people want from their careers: the majority of people (60%) said a good work/life balance was most important to them; this was closely followed by working with a good team, chosen by 54% of people, having a challenging and varied role (47%), and flexible working (42%). A career in care ticks all of these boxes.
Many who work in the care sector are proud of the work they do and the impact they have. Craig Young, 24, works as a carer at Anchor's Orchard Court in Surrey and when asked his favourite part his role, said: "There are so many opportunities in care and it is a job you can feel good about. You are making a big difference to people's lives and put a smile on someone's face. There is great career progression as well as training so you can make of the job what you choose." Vanessa Pryor, one of Anchor's Activity Coordinators at Ferendune Court in Oxfordshire, agreed: "Every day is different and there is always something to challenge me, which I really enjoy. There are lots of opportunities to gain qualifications and meet your full potential."
Today is Care Home Open Day and we're throwing open the doors of many care homes to encourage more people to consider a career in care, but we cannot change opinions on our own. We urge as many people as possible to come along, leave your preconceived notions at the door and enter with an open mind. It's about time that society proudly acknowledges the great contribution carers make to the lives of older people, and the opportunities the care sector offers - both for individuals and in rising to the challenge of our ageing population. For more information about a career in care with Anchor, go to www.anchor.org.uk/careers.