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A Career in Adult Social Care – The Views of Young People

Chris Goulden
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The Challenge

Generational progress in the UK is grinding to a halt. Those in their 20s and 30s today have incomes no higher than the previous generation at the same age and are actually worse off once housing costs are considered.

Young people are over-represented in jobs in sectors that are expected to see lower employment growth in the long term, and vital ‘stepping stone’ mid-skill jobs are in decline.

But young people basically want what previous generations wanted from work: secure, full- time jobs with decent pay, near where they live. They also want to work with like-minded people, in jobs and companies they believe in and that match their skills and capabilities.

There is a shrinking youth labour market, with significant numbers of young people staying in or moving into full-time education following the pandemic (Williams J, et al., 2021). This contributes to employer difficulties in filling entry level jobs, especially where those roles are not being advertised flexibly (for example in ways that can fit around studies).

Employment and Pay

Elementary administrative and service as well as sales occupations declined both before and during the pandemic, while business, and health and social care professions grew.

There are an estimated 1.67m jobs in adult social care in England (The State of the Adult Social Care Sector and Workforce, 2021). The profile of the sector is skewed towards older workers, with 9% aged under 25 compared with 12% who are economically active overall in that age group. Among the different jobs in the sector, care workers – the lowest paid – have the youngest age profile, with 12% being under 25 years of age.

Age is also a factor in turnover in social care. Workers under 20 had the highest rates, at 42%. While this is typical across different sectors, not just in care work, the reasons why younger people might leave care jobs include seeing the roles as stopgaps while studying or waiting for a preferred job in another sector, or because of low pay and a general lack of choice facing some young people in their career options.

Low pay is a widespread issue in the sector, especially for care worker roles. This will affect how young people view this as a career or even a stopgap job. However, the National Living Wage is making inroads into the wage floor for care work, and it is and will continue to apply to more younger workers as the age threshold reduces from its original level at age 25 to (eventually) age 21. That might increase the attractiveness of entry-level jobs in care for young people in the future. Given the strong likelihood of an increase in demand for such jobs, this will be crucial.

Futureproofing careers

The IPPR and IES report funded by Youth Futures Foundation and Blagrave Trust: ‘A Better Future for Young People: Transforming jobs and skills for young people post- pandemic’ outlines trajectories for investment of £30bn in climate and environmental sectors and £17bn in heath and care services that would stem the decline in jobs for young people, as well as across the economy as a whole.

The modelling in the report concludes that the shift to “greener and cleaner” jobs through government investment in its Levelling Up and Net Zero strategies could create an additional 176,000 jobs for young people. Many would be in the shrinking, yet crucial, mid-skill job spectrum, including over 25,000 more roles for care workers and home carers. Such roles would be equally distributed across regions of the UK.

Is a career in adult social care attractive to young people?

Interviews with 18-24 year-olds in England provide qualitative evidence about concerns relating to working in the adult social care sector.

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Perceptions about a careers in adult social careSome feel that working in the sector could be daunting even though care might be an interesting subject to study when aged 16-18 or older:

My impression of a career in adult social care, although extremely rewarding, can seem daunting for a young person. Young employees might lean towards children’s social care because they feel more comfortable being a caring figure to people younger than themselves. I think young people worry that somebody older would not entirely trust them to provide the same level of care as a social care worker closer to their own age.”

Lauren, 23, Leeds

It may be too stressful and demanding for some. Some people may find that they enjoy studying it as a subject, but, when it comes to applying that in a real-life setting, they may find it doesn’t meet their expectations.

Ellimae, 18, Yeovil

One way to attract more young people into social care careers is by having taster sessions for people who are interested or who would like to know more, so they can experience these careers in person. It would also help to be able to speak to people already doing these jobs.

Joel, 22, Bristol

Concerns about low pay in adult social care – Low pay and poor working conditions are clear negatives for young people looking for stable paid employment:

The media spotlight has been on adult social care for a while, citing low wages and poor working conditions as the reason for staff shortages and care home closures. I definitely think that these negative connotations make it an
unattractive career for myself and perhaps other young people who need stable, paid employment.

Lauren, 23, Leeds

Recommendation 1

The Government should work cross-sector to develop an experiential marketing campaign to highlight the rewarding and positive aspects of a career in adult social care to young people.

Recommendation 2

The Government should commit a significant part of the funding needed for adult social care in England as part of its Levelling Up agenda.

Recommendation 3

The Government should continue to increase the National Living Wage and reduce the age at which it is payable, as far as market conditions allow.

Chris Goulden, Youth Futures Foundation


Reforming Adult Social Care – Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England

The Campaign for Learning’s report, Reforming Adult Social Care: Integrating Funding, Pay, Employment and Skills Policies in England, is based on seventeen contributions from experts in both the adult social care sector and the post-16 education, skills and employability sectors. 

Three themes are common to most of the authors’ contributions – the scale of the adult social care sector in England, the complexity of policy making for the sector, and the need for greater integration of funding, pay, employment and skills. 

Part One: The Adult Social Care Sector

Part Two: Strategic Reforms to Adult Social Care

  • Paul Nowak, TUC: A National Care Forum to Fix Social Care
  • Stephen Evans, Learning and Work Institute: A Long-Term Pay, Employment and Skills Plan for Adult Social Care

Part Three: Recruitment in the Context of a Skills-Based Immigration Policy

  • Becci Newton, Institute for Employment Studies: Improving Pay and Job Quality in Adult Social Care
  • Karolina Gerlich, The Care Workers’ Charity: Encouraging Young People and Adults to become Adult Care Workers
  • Chris Goulden, Youth Futures Foundation: A Career in Adult Social Care: The Views of Young People
  • Andrew Morton, ERSA: Targeting Active Labour Market Policies to Fill Adult Social Care Vacancies

Part Four: The Delivery and Design of Social Care Qualifications

  • John Widdowson, Former FE College Principal: Embedding Emotional Support for Learners on Health and Social Care Courses
  • Naomi Dixon, Education and Training Foundation: Supporting Post-16 FE Practitioners to Teach Social Care

Part Five: The Role of Post-16 Education and Skills Policies

  • Elena Wilson, The Edge Foundation: Valuing Level 3 BTECs for 16-18 Year Olds Studying Health and Social Care
  • Julian Gravatt, AoC: What Post-16 FE Can and Cannot do to tackle the Adult Social Care crisis
  • Jane Hickie, AELP: Reforming Apprenticeship Funding and Delivery for Adult Social Care
  • Gemma Gathercole, CWLEP: Adults Skills, Adult Social Care and Devo-Deals

Part Six: Adult Learning and Adult Social Care

  • Susan Pember, HOLEX: The Wider Benefits of Adult Learning for Adult Social Care
  • Simon Parkinson, WEA: Adult Learning for Adults in Social Care
  • Campaign for Learning: Proposals for reform in England 
Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in Employability, Work and leadership, Skills and apprenticeships, Social impact, Student view, Featured voices

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