The social care sector covers all occupations that aim to help people overcome difficulties related to physical, mental, environmental or lifestyle problems at any stage in their lives. It includes staff in both professional and non-professional roles who support vulnerable people living in the community and in residential care.
Social care is separated into child social care and adult social care services. Adult social care is the fastest growing part of the sector and it is likely to continue to be with the ageing population.
The range of work settings includes the community, hospitals, health centres, education and advice centres, and people's homes.
The social care sector has suffered from a negative image, with high vacancy and staff turnover rates in some areas and high profile child abuse cases bringing it under public scrutiny. Those working in social care do often face pressurised roles and heavy caseloads but managers are aiming to address employees' support and training needs to improve conditions. The work, although stressful, can be highly rewarding, and personal satisfaction can be gained from developing and maintaining relationships with those you are trying to help.
There are more women than men working in the sector and it employs around one in ten of all female workers in the UK (Skills for Care and Development, 2011). The ethnic make up of the workforce does not reflect the diverse community it serves.
Salaries depend on the professional and geographical area you work in. As a guide, the British Association of Social Workers states that a newly qualified social worker could start at around £18,000 and work up to around £30,000 with increased experience and responsibility.
The social care and development sector serves around 2.3 million adults. It employs just over 1.8 million people in the UK, which is around 6% of the total UK workforce. Just under a third work in the public sector while almost half are employed by private or commercial organisations.
There are a growing number of workers being employed on small projects with short-term funding. These projects are often community based and focused on certain issues such as drug rehabilitation or preventing youth offending.
There are opportunities to work all over the UK, with particularly high vacancy rates in large cities such as London and Birmingham.
In Scotland, around 198,000 are employed in the sector, in Wales there are approximately 76,000 who work predominately with the elderly and in Northern Ireland there are around 30,000. Many of these roles are within public sector organisations.
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