- 16 February 2021
- 8 min read
How Much Care Assistants Get Paid In The UK In 2021
We look at the pay you should be getting as a Care Assistant working in the UK in 2021. We also briefly look at how you can increase your earnings.
Topics Covered In This Article
Care Assistants, who unlike Healthcare assistants normally work in care homes rather than hospitals, make a vital contribution to caring for vulnerable people.
As a result of COVID-19 and the terrible toll it’s taken on care homes, their work has come under the spotlight even more – as have staff shortages and pay.
This guide examines the pay question in detail, understanding what new and established Care Assistants can expect in terms of salary, the options available to increase your earnings, and what the future might hold.
What Is The Average Salary For A Care Assistant?
The average salary for a Care Assistant in the UK is between £16,000 and £18,000 a year, according to the latest industry statistics.
The average hourly rate for a UK Care Assistant is approximately between £8.50 and £9.50.
There are quite large regional differences in pay, with Care Assistants in and around London, for example, typically earning more.
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However, this average is offered tentatively because the vast majority of care homes are operated privately, and have the freedom to offer very different rates of pay.
Within the NHS, all staff are paid within transparent bandings. We outline NHS pay bandings in our comprehensive Pay Guide.
What Is The Starting Salary For A Care Assistant?
Entry level positions pay a salary of around £15,000 or £16,000 a year.
Care Assistants in NHS-operated care homes earn a starting salary of just over £18,000 however – higher than the standard entry level salary offered privately.
What Does A Care Assistant Do To Earn This Wage?
Care Assistants work within the community, in a person’s home or a residential care home.
They normally support adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, mental health conditions or older people.
Duties vary, but can include:
• Assistance with washing and dressing
• Making food and helping with eating
• Tailoring care according to each person’s need
• Monitoring health and any illnesses
• Checking that medications are being taken appropriately
• Managing and conducting group activities
• Co-ordinating events and outings Working hours vary and are largely shift based.
What’s The Difference Between Care Assistant Pay In The NHS And Private Sector?
84% of care home beds are operated privately, so the first difference is that the majority of Care Assistants work in the private sector rather than the NHS.
As mentioned, pay in the private sector is unregulated and unpredictable, with benchmarks providing only a rough guide.
Meanwhile, in the NHS Care Assistants are paid within the same banding system as every other NHS employee.
Care Assistants normally earn a Band 2 salary, which offers a starting wage of £18,005 a year currently.
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So, broadly speaking, the starting salary for a Care Assistant in the NHS is slightly better.
But beyond this point it’s difficult to say how pay compares at different points in your career.
Those benefits aren’t necessarily guaranteed privately.
How Do You Become A Care Assistant?
You don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications to become a Care Assistant.
Some providers ask for GCSE A-Cs in English and maths, but not all do.
It’s beneficial to enter the workforce with a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care.
Some organisations will demand this, and even if they don’t it could make it easier to ask for better rates of pay.
However, many Care Assistants enter the sector with no formal qualifications.
Experience of helping others isn’t essential but again, it can help.
How Does A Care Assistant Boost Their Earnings?
Earning more money as a Care Assistant comes down to improving your experience and qualifications.
As mentioned, gaining a Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Health and Social Care could make it easier to discuss a pay rise.
And without question, the more experience you have in different settings, the easier it will be to apply for more senior or better paying positions.
So if you think you justify a pay rise, talk to your employer and make your case – you’re absolutely entitled to.
What Career Paths Can A Care Assistant Take?
Being a Care Assistant is a really good starting point for lots of different careers?
One option is to seek out training in specialist areas while you’re working, such as autism or dementia.
This could help you to become a lead care worker, and to become a really sought-after specialist in the sector.
You could also continue to develop your care qualifications.
If, for example, you can work your way up to a Level 5 Diploma in Leadership and Management, you may be able to become a team leader or even a home manager.
And finally, many Care Assistants choose to become a Nurse.
How Does A Care Assistant Become A Nurse?
There are many skills required in a Nursing role that are very transferrable from a Care Assistant role.
Most importantly, the care and compassion you have to have in abundance is key to both roles.
Furthermore, you really learn how to communicate with vulnerable people in a care setting – and this too is very relevant.
So, starting your career as a Care Assistant provides the ideal grounding for Nursing.
The easiest way to move into Nursing will be to work as a Healthcare assistant within the NHS.
Because from there you’ll have the opportunity to study for a Nursing degree on a part-time basis while you work. (We list the Top Nursing Universities in the UK here.)
To begin the degree you’ll probably need at least an NVQ Level 3 as a Care Assistant or nursing associate.
A Nursing Associate is a position somewhere between a Healthcare assistant and registered Nurse – and another really good stepping stone on this particular career journey.
A Nursing apprenticeship is another good option – and working as a Care Assistant or Healthcare assistant will definitely improve your chances of getting one.
Apprenticeships are an excellent way of studying to become a Nurse because you’ll effectively earn while you learn.
Ultimately, being a Care Assistant isn’t necessarily a fast-track to becoming a Nurse – you will always have to complete a Nursing degree.
What Does The Future Hold For Care Assistant Salaries?
Most industry insiders and experts feel that pay in the care sector is below where it should be, given the contribution care workers make.
That contribution has been highlighted throughout COVID-19, and the tremendous sacrifices that have been made.
The problem is that, with the vast majority of care homes operated privately, implementing pay rises across the board is a huge challenge.
It seems unlikely however that the growing calls for better care sector pay can be ignored forever.
Public opinion on the subject is very much in favour of better pay for care workers – which will only grow in light of the UK’s ageing population.
Ultimately, more of us will have loved ones in care homes in the future, and this will only increase the scrutiny of how care workers are treated and recruited.
The care sector continues to struggle to attract and retain enough employees – and Brexit hasn’t helped matters either.
Increasing pay rates could work wonders for a beleaguered industry.