2014 Conference Presentation
Objective: Studies of the United Kingdom labour market have regularly highlighted the failings of the long term care sector to deliver ‘good’ jobs in terms of the numbers of workers on zero hours contracts and employers who illegally pay workers below the national minimum wage. At the same time, care work provides a growing sector within the UK labour market and this is likely to continue given future demands for care. This paper draws on a Department of Health funded study of the long term care workforce to explore some of the motivations to be found among staff working across a range of social care settings.
Data and methods: The data are drawn from semi-structured interviews with social care employers, care workers, and service users and carers undertaken in four different parts of England. Staff and employers were re-interviewed approximately 18 months later.
Results: Participants described a range of motivations for working in social care. For some, job satisfaction and ‘making a difference’ helped counter some of the terms and conditions that they found less desirable. Motivations differed between sectors and across client groups. For example, autonomy and independence were valued by some people working in home care while those working in communal settings spoke of team work and ‘pulling together’. Life experience was seen as an important asset that helped people deliver more sensitive and personalised care.
Policy implications: The complex motivations of those working in the care sector are sometimes underestimated in favour of global assumptions about lack of alternative types of employment and the need to fit in with other family commitments, such as childcare. While these are important factors, they are not the only ones. Recruitment initiatives need to become more tailored and individualised if the long term care workforce is to become more sustainable. Consideration also needs to be given to supporting service users with personal budgets or direct payments to recruit workers who can deliver the sort of support they want.