Everyone a winner

Ann Raymond says it is time to celebrate the good that care
assistants do.

“Morning,” I said as I passed a senior manager on the stairs. No
response. Not even a nod in reply. I knew he had seen me, I had
caught his eye and smiled -that was before he had averted his gaze.
I know who he is, he knows I work there. But hey! I’m used to being

Whether you work for a social services department or in the
private sector it appears that care assistants do not seem to be
held in very high regard -Êby the public in general and by
some senior management in social care.

Managers and job advertisements tell us that it is a very
rewarding job, and that we will be part of a valued team. But in
what capacity are we valued?

Is it because we do the job that seems to fill so many with

At my husband’s firm’s Christmas party, we were sitting with
some of his colleagues and their partners. When asked what work I
did I replied “care assistant”. Two people at our table turned away
and another looked at me and said “Is it true? Do you wipe people’s

“Well yes,” I started to say, “but there’s a lot more to the job
than that…”. But he had already gone off to dance.

Once again, that unfair stereotypical image had reared its head.
I wanted to pull him back, make him listen, tell him what my day
had involved, both the good bits and the bad.

That day, I had held one lady’s hands trying to give a little
comfort and reassurance as she had breathed her last and died. I
had helped a man with bad dementia, who is now terrified of life,
to eat his lunch, all the while promising him I had not poisoned
it. I know I had made Lena’s (who is paralysed, with limited speech
following a stroke) day when she beat me at cards, her smile had
said it all. And yes I had emptied commodes and made some beds, and
probably had wiped about 12 people’s bottoms. But so what, that is
my job, and I am proud to make a difference to people’s lives.

As we all know, you don’t have to be highly qualified to be a
care assistant -Êjust basic skills and some common sense. But
that does not mean that some of us haven’t held down skilled
employment in the past. Among my care assistant colleagues are a
former teacher, a qualified nurse, a carpenter, and former
secretaries. But they all agree that as soon as you put on that
care assistant hat you are viewed differently.

The media has rightly reported the one or two isolated incidents
of bad care practice that have occurred. But isn’t it unfortunate
that we all seem to be tarred with the same brush? There is never
any mention of the registration teams and the establishments that
work so hard to keep their delivery of care up to the required
standards. It is only one or two care assistants that are guilty,
but never any mention of the thousands who aren’t.

Those who work in this field often do so way beyond the call of
duty, for little more than the minimum wage. We are the service
user’s regular contact, and often their confidant. We try to
promote their independence, constantly monitor and assess both
their physical and mental conditions, reporting and liaising with
the senior and purchasing staff.

We don’t discriminate, treating each individual alike, no matter
what their background. We treat them with dignity and respect, from
the cleaner to the high court judge, the released prisoner to the
retired priest.

We treat our senior staff with the same respect, appreciating
the responsibility that lies on their shoulders. But it is obvious
who are the ones who started out as care assistants – they
understand the nature of our role and often lend a hand when a
crisis occurs. At times they may even ask our view, really listen
and respect our opinion. But those who entered the senior level by
a different route have a different approach. They don’t have any
empathy with us, viewing us only as the “givers of personal care”.
If only they could spend a shift with us, understand service users’
true needs and how we try to fulfil them. Then perhaps they
wouldn’t think and remark that we are “only” care staff.

Most of us are taking NVQs and all undergo in-house training,
enhancing our skills and knowledge, which seems a very positive
step. This should help produce teams committed to providing quality
care. In time the standards we achieve may filter through, from the
basic role of care assistant, through the hierarchy of officers,
out among the public.

How nice it would be, if everyone involved in social care were
seen as members of a team that works together, to provide an
excellent service for each and every person that needs our care, in
whatever capacity.

Instead of letting the care assistant’s role be demoted, why
don’t we all try and promote it.

Ann Raymond [not her real name] is a care

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