Residential Support Worker

The Job and What's Involved

Residential support workers, sometimes known as care officers, look after the social welfare of children or adults in residential care.

As a residential support worker, your clients could include children in care, or adults with physical or learning disabilities, mental health problems, addiction issues or other emotional or social needs.

Your day-to-day tasks would vary according to the client group you worked with, but might include:

  • Assessing each resident's needs and progress.
  • Providing physical care.
  • Creating a safe and positive living environment.
  • Setting boundaries for young people's behaviour.
  • Offering one-to-one counselling or leading group therapy sessions.
  • Providing leisure and creative opportunities.
  • Teaching daily living skills such as budgeting, shopping and claiming benefits.
  • Helping residents to deal with problems and become independent.
  • Keeping records and writing reports.
  • Liaising with residents' families.
  • Working with other health and care professionals.

With experience, you could have extra responsibilities including supervising and leading a team, and managing a budget.

In a full-time job you would typically work around 37 hours a week, often on a shift rota including weekends, evenings and 'sleep in' duties. You may also be on-call at times. Part-time work and job sharing are widely available.

You could be based in children's homes, hostels, or adult residential care centres, which may be purpose-built or adapted houses. You may also spend time out in the community doing activities with residents.

The work can be challenging as you may be supporting residents with unpredictable behaviour.

Full-time salaries can be around £13,000 to £18,000 a year.
Senior support workers can earn between £19,000 to £24,000.

Hourly rates for part-time and contract work can be anywhere between £7 and £14.

Salaries may be lower in the private sector.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

To work in residential support, you will need paid or voluntary experience in the social work and care sector. You could get relevant experience in a number of ways, such as:

Working or volunteering at a youth club.

Personal experience of caring for a family member.

Working as a social work assistant.

Paid or voluntary work in a care home, nursery or relevant charity.

See the Social Work and Care Careers website for advice on volunteering and links to volunteer recruitment sites.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, employers' websites and specialist employment agencies.

Education and Training

Most social care employers will value your work and life experience more than formal qualifications. However, before you look for paid work, you may find it helpful to take a college course in health and social care, youth work or childcare (for example, a BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Health and Social Care or the 14-19 Diploma in Society, Health and Development).

Taking a social care qualification is not essential to find work, but most courses include work placements and so can be a good way of getting experience. Relevant qualifications are widely available full- and part-time at local colleges.

For any job where you would be working (paid or unpaid) with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks from theCriminal Records Bureau (CRB). (Previous convictions or cautions may not automatically prevent you from working in social care).

A Few More Exams You Might Need

When you start your job your employer will provide induction training to approved national care standards. You will also learn on the job from experienced staff.

You are also likely to have ongoing training throughout your career, which may include in-house short courses and the chance to gain work-based qualifications such as NVQ levels 2-4 in Health and Social Care (specialising in working with adults or children and young people)*.

*The NVQs in Health and Social Care will be replaced in the coming months. From August 2010 the option for children and young people will be replaced by the Level 2 Certificate and Level 3 Diploma for the Children and Young People's Workforce (Social Care Pathway). New Diplomas at levels 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care (Adults) are currently in development.

You could study part-time at a local college for other qualifications such as a social care-related foundation degree. With this qualification you may be able to join the second year of a social work degree if you decided to train as a social worker in the future.

With experience, your employer may also offer the opportunity for you to study for the social work degree part-time.

Register of social care workers

The General Social Care Council (GSCC) runs a register of qualified and student social workers in England. In the future, all social care workers including support workers will need to join the register and follow the GSCC Code of Practice. See the GSCC website for more information about the register.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A residential support workers needs:

  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • The ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds and gain their trust.
  • A practical and flexible approach to work.
  • Tact, patience and empathy.
  • An understanding of the needs of different client groups.
  • A non-judgemental attitude.
  • The ability to work in a team and also use your own initiative.
  • The ability to assess situations and take appropriate action.
  • Resilience, to cope with difficult situations and challenging clients.
  • Good time management and organisational skills.
  • Computer literacy and administrative skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

With experience, you could take on more responsibility as a senior support worker.

You could also choose to qualify as a social worker.

You could be employed by local authorities, charities and voluntary agencies, private sector care homes and agencies.

Get Further Information

Skills for Care (England),
Albion Court, 5 Albion Place, Leeds LS1 6JL
Tel: 0113 245 1716

Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)

Care Council for Wales (CCW)

Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC)

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