If you enjoy helping children and adults and want to make a difference to their lives, this job could be perfect for you. Residential support workers look after the wellbeing of children or adults in care.
Most social care employers will be more interested in your work and life experience than formal qualifications. You will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).
The ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds will be important. You’ll also need to be able to gain their trust and have a non-judgemental attitude.
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:
- checking each resident's needs and progress
- providing physical care
- creating a safe and positive living environment
- setting rules for young people's behaviour
- providing one-to-one counselling or group therapy sessions
- teaching daily living skills such as budgeting, shopping and claiming benefits
- providing leisure and creative activities
- helping residents to deal with problems and become independent
- keeping records and writing reports
- liaising with residents' families and arranging family and home visits
- working with other health and care professionals
- supervising meals
- acting as Learning Support Assistant
- supporting various aspects of home life
- contributing to care plans and case reviews
- dealing with and reporting on complex matters relating to individual children and their needs.
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. 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 and £24,000 a year. Hourly rates for part-time and contract work can be between £7 and £14.
Salaries may be lower in the private sector.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
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.
You can get more information and search for volunteering opportunities on the Do-it website.
Most social care employers will be more interested in your work and life experience 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. This could be, 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 for finding work, but most courses include work placements so this could be a good way of getting experience.
Relevant qualifications are widely available at local colleges. You could do these full-time or part-time.
For any job where you would be working (paid or unpaid) with children or vulnerable adults, you will need to pass background checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Previous convictions or cautions may not automatically prevent you from working in social care. See the DBS website for details.
- Disclosure and Barring Service (Home Office website)
Training and development
When you start your job, your employer will provide induction training that meets approved national care standards. You will also learn on the job from experienced staff. For more information on induction training and national care standards, see the following websites.
All currently employed residential childcare workers must hold as a minimum a level 3 qualification (previously the NVQ in Health & Social care). All newly employed residential child care workers must either be qualified to a minimum level 3 or be working towards the level 3 diploma in working with children and young people (social care pathway) within six months of employment.
You are also likely to have ongoing training throughout your career. This may include short courses given by your employer and the chance to gain work-based qualifications in Social Care at levels 2 to 4.
Residential childcare workers may also hold a social work qualification. You could study part-time at a local college for other qualifications such as a foundation degree related to social care. 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. Once you have experience, your employer may also offer you the opportunity to study part-time for the social work degree.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become a residential support worker, you will need to have:
- excellent communication and 'people' 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 understanding
- knowledge 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 organisation skills
- the ability to manage complex communication with families and organisations
- an understanding of child-focused approaches to supporting disabled children's potential
- computer literacy and administration skills
- clear understanding of child development
- an understanding of the psychological impact of experiences
- an understanding of the effects of bereavement, change and loss
- a supportive attitude towards health and wellbeing, and education achievement.
Skills for Care (England)
6 Grace Street
Tel: 0113 241 1275
Health and Care Professions Council
Northern Ireland Social Care Council (NISCC)
Care Council for Wales (CCW)
Department for Education - Children and Young People
Castle View House
Tel: 0370 000 2288
You could be employed by local authorities; charities and voluntary agencies; private sector care homes; and agencies.
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national newspapers, on employers' websites and by specialist employment agencies.
With experience, you could take on more responsibility as a senior support worker. You could also choose to qualify as a social worker.
Related industry information
Adult social care is part of the sector represented by Skills for Care, which is one of the partners that comprise Skills for Care and Development Sector Skills Council. This includes those working in early years, children and young people’s services, and those working in social work and social care for children and adults in the UK. The social care sector comprises two sub-sectors:
- Adult social care – with a workforce of nearly 1.5 million, accounting for 5% of England’s workforce, and 38,000 employers
- Children and young people – with an estimated workforce of 2.7 million
During 2007/08, approximately 2.3 million adults used publicly funded social work and social care services in the UK. Adult social care includes residential care, domiciliary care and social work with all its specialism's.
There are an estimated 1.5 million workers providing adult social care services and more than 38,000 employers. Skills for Care are responsible for the training standards and development needs of social work and social care staff working with adults in England. This includes staff working in local authority social services and related services, the regulated sector (care homes, domiciliary care services and home nursing services), non-regulated day care and community care services, and employed by individuals for their own or another person’s care and support.
- Of the 1.39 million in adult social care in England: 1.31 million are directly employed; and 78,000 are bank, pool and agency staff, students and others
- The adult social care workforce can also include:
- 25,460 full-time equivalent social workers
- 14,000 learning mentors
- 2,247 educational psychologists
- Of the 14,456 care-only homes registered with CSCI* at June 2007:
- 9,870 (68%) are private sector
- 3,251 voluntary sector
- most of the remaining are operated by councils
- Most social care services (58%) are provided by micro organisations (or agencies) employing between 1-10 people or small enterprises (29%) employing between 11-49 people.
- 12% of social care enterprises employ 50-99 people and 1% employ 200 or more.
- In 2007, 54,151 individuals were receiving direct payments to fund their own care.
* CSCI was replaced by the Care Quality Commission in 2009.
Jobs in adult social care include: administrative staff, ancillary staff, care workers, community support and outreach workers, counsellors, first-line managers, occupational therapists, registered managers, senior care workers, senior management, social workers, supervisors, technicians.