How to get into care work with no experience

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it was how vital care workers are to our society and the many people that they support. Approximately 1.5 million people are working in adult social care in the UK. But even so, this type of worker is still in high demand with 165,000 vacant posts in the social care sector as of 2021 / 2022.

Care work can be challenging but for those already working in care, many find their role incredibly rewarding. After all, they are making a positive difference in someone’s life. But how do you get into care work if you don’t have any experience?

The good news is that there are many ways to get your foot in the door of the care industry. Whether you have just finished your education, are seeking a career change or are simply looking to get back into employment after a period away, our guide will give you the rundown on what you need to know and offers advice on how to get into care work with no experience.

Do you need qualifications for care work?

The short answer is no as you can start a career in care work without any formal qualifications. That being said, it can help you find work if you have qualifications and/or evidence of training.

Some places request a minimum of English and Maths GCSEs at an A*-C (4 to 9 in the new grading system) grade. Others may ask for National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in Health & Social Care, Adult Care or Child Care.

Aside from formal qualifications, there is other training and documentation that can place you in the best possible position for securing care work and make the recruitment process quicker:

DBS certificate: Care positions involving children or vulnerable adults require an enhanced DBS check. Whilst you cannot apply for this check yourself, if you sign up with a care recruitment agency or have begun the onboarding process with a recruiter, they should be able to apply for one on your behalf. The cost of an enhanced DBS check is £38, and you may need to pay for this. Once issued, it’s a good idea to sign up for the DBS Update Service, which ensures your certificate remains up to date. This currently costs £13 per year.

DBS Adult First Check: This is a service provided by the Disclosure and Barring Service. It allows employees in certain circumstances to begin adult care work, under supervision, before receiving a full DBS certificate.

The Care Certificate: This is an identified set of standards that health and care professionals must adhere to. There are 15 standards which individuals must demonstrate a sound knowledge of to obtain the certificate.

Safeguarding certificate: A safeguarding certificate demonstrates that you know how to promote the welfare of those you care for and that you understand how to protect them from harm, abuse and neglect.

What types of care work are there?

There are many forms of care work. Whilst many require the same personal characteristics and skills, there are some differences. Depending on who you are as a person and your preferences, you may already have an affinity for a particular type of care. If you aren’t sure what type of care you want to get into, here is an overview:

  • Aged care: This is support given to older people in their own homes or an aged care setting such as a nursing home.
  • Physical disability care: This is the care of those with physical disabilities such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Support may include hygiene, grooming, dressing and general day-to-day assistance. 
  • Learning disability care: This support helps with many areas of life such as eating, washing and personal care.
  • Home care: This is care provided to individuals in their own homes. It can include chores, errands, and interpersonal care.
  • Personal care: This form of care involves supporting someone with bathing, toileting, grooming, dressing and anything else that helps maintain a person's dignity, health and well-being.
  • Respite care: This is support given to a carer. It gives them the opportunity for a break whilst knowing assistance is still being given to the person they care for.
  • Childcare: This is the care of children in settings such as creches, nurseries and childminders.

Ways to gain care experience

Experience can go a long way in helping you find employment and forge a fulfilling career. When it comes to care work, there are plenty of ways to learn new skills and gain knowledge.

Apply for jobs

This may seem like an obvious way to gain experience but if you haven’t worked in the care sector before it’s understandable if you feel nervous about applying for roles.

Whilst some employers may prefer candidates with prior experience, many are happy to provide on-the-job training to the right person. Take a look at the job specification and requirements and ensure you tailor your application to show how you meet these.

Volunteer with charities

Many charities and organisations rely on volunteers for a whole host of different roles including telephone friendship, transport, and at-home support. You could try contacting your local charity such as Age UK or sign up with Do It and the National Council of Volunteering Organisations (NCVO).

Contact your local care home

Many care homes welcome volunteers who are happy to spend time with the residents, be that chatting with them, reading to them, doing activities, making tea or helping with meal times. Volunteers can make the lives of the residents better whilst also supporting the care staff that work there.

Get out in the community

You can still gain valuable experience even if not in a specific care setting. You could help elderly neighbours with their shopping, for example, do some DIY that they aren't physically able to do themselves or support local groups.

Help out friends and family

Providing support to those closest to you can be really beneficial. It can give you a great insight into what to expect from care work whilst also providing the opportunity for honest feedback. Perhaps you could look after your nieces and nephews for the day or help out a family member as they recover from a medical procedure.

Become a companion with companiions

You could also become a companion. In this flexible role you’ll provide on-demand support and everyday assistance to those who need it. This could be an older person living alone who wants some companionship and someone to check in each day or someone navigating mental health issues who needs support with home tasks such as cleaning and meal prep.

Register with companiions today to begin gaining valuable care work experience while earning up to £25 an hour. Simply download the app for free to get started.