The true value of a Residential Support Worker

Feature Story May 2020

Steve Thomas

Member of South West Norfolk Constituency Labour Party and Workplace Representative of Unite the UNION

With the introduction of a points-based immigration system, it got me thinking of the impact this is going to have on the non-skilled employment of Residential Support Workers. Added to this concern, we are still in the depths of the Coronavirus Pandemic and the nation now appears to value workers employed in Social Care, the frontline, and keyworkers.

Residential support workers are the people that look after children and implement the wishes and instructions of managers, local authorities, and the courts. They support the young person with a child-centered approach, use their interpersonal skills, and their ability to connect with young people to move them to a better emotional and stable state of mind. They find the good and best part of the child and nurture and support them to come to terms with and change direction from the traumatic start to their life.

The children live in a residential setting because a foster parent cannot be found, or their foster placements have broken down, or they chose to live in this ‘hustle and bustle’ environment. All the children, Support Workers are responsible for, have been placed there by local authorities or the courts. They have some fantastic times, but it is nothing like Tracey Beaker’s Dumping Ground, as portrayed on TV.

The young people are in care because they have been abused or have witnessed abuse, they could be perpetrators or victims, or they could just be too much for their significant person to cope with.

Ask yourself this, how much do Residential Support Workers earn and what skill set do they have?

To help, I have given you a guide to average wage rates from the Indeed.com website

(The National Minimum Wage is £8.32 per hour (2020))

Let us say that child (A) occasionally likes to punch you in the face, smash the furniture, rip doors off their hinges and punch holes through the walls. Would you need that Support Worker to be trained in positive behaviour management, first aid, anti-oppressive practices, dealing with group conflicts, person-centred support, the culture of participation, safeguarding, Pedagogy, and the Solihull approach?

(Sainsbury’s pay on average £8.59 per hour (2020))

Let us say that child (B) is a non-verbal autistic with violent tendencies due to his lack of communication skills. Would you require the Support Worker to use a picture exchange communication system, sign language, and to be trained in supporting people with autism and autism awareness?

(Average earnings for a gardener are £9.98 per hour (2020))

Let us say that child (c) has a medical condition. Would you require a Support Worker to administer their medication and understand the dosage system as well as undertaking epilepsy and insulin administration training where required?

(Average earnings of a driver are £11.59 per hour (2020)

Let us say that this child (D) is disabled and double incontinent. Would you want the Support Worker to be trained in safeguarding disabled children and intimate care, and manual handling and hoist training?

Let us say that child (E) had been sexually abused. Would you want the Support Worker to be trained in sexual health, human trafficking, attachment and child development, child sexual exploitation, and female genital mutilation awareness?

(Average earnings of a cleaner £12.05 per hour (2020))

Let us say that child (F) is at risk of radicalisation. Would you want the Support Worker to be trained in ‘Channel’ awareness?

Let us say that child (G) likes to slash his arms with sharp objects. Would you want the Support Worker to be trained in the mental health of young people and mental capacity?

Let us say that child (H) likes to smoke cannabis and drink alcohol. Would you like the Support Worker to be trained in alcohol and drug misuse as well as ‘County Lines’?

Let us say that child (I) is about to leave care. Would you like the Support Worker to be trained in information and advice, and housing, Personal Independence Payments, and Universal Credit benefit?

(Average earnings for loading and stocking £13.11 per hour (2020))

Now imagine you are not at home but working in a residential setting. You would need to be trained in the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health, infection control, health and safety, nutrition and diet, and food hygiene and safety.

Support workers are trained in all the above and much more. Their line manager will have had additional training in staff appraisals, performance management, giving and receiving feedback, discipline and grievance, complaint handling, safer recruitment and investigation skills in safeguarding.

And just to make sure the Support Worker is always up to speed, they will be spot-checked by Ofsted, refresh their training annually, and have a minimum qualification of NVQ level 3. We have not even mentioned the reams of paperwork that need to be completed daily.

(The average salary for a Veola refuse collector is £17.16 per hour (2020))

So how much is the Support Worker paid?

Well the answer is an average of £9.62 per hour.

Did you get it right?

When the TUC calls for a pay rise for all keyworkers, in real life, what can that possibly look like for Residential Support Workers (a few more pence per hour)?

Just because support workers are low paid, it doesn’t mean they are low skilled. So, when you are clapping your hands, on Thursdays, please give a thought for the Residential Support Workers and our European colleagues that prop up the Healthcare system.

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