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Social care in the community
Social care in the community

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As you have seen, being a home care worker is not straightforward. It is not about being a friend, although it is about being friendly. Workers must respect health and safety requirements, they must be clear about their responsibilities, and they must be competent to carry out quite a range of tasks. They need to manage relationships so that they can do what they need to do in the time available. Clients cannot contact them individually outside the allocated working hours.

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Figure 2 Preserving the boundaries between client and care worker

Marking out the boundaries between work and friendship is important. Uniforms help. As well as being practical, they indicate that this is a job, not just a casual helping-out arrangement. Despite these professional boundaries, home care workers can find the job quite upsetting. Liz Randall, whom you saw on the video working with Clarice, commented to the team who recorded the film how hard it could be:

I think it’s hard keeping it so professional. A lot of them die in our job. The office can’t contact us all, letting us know, and you might find out a couple of days later. I think regular carers obviously they’re contacted. But it might be somebody who I only go to once a week, but I’ve been going there for twelve months or so. And you find out that they’ve suddenly gone into hospital, and when they come back out, well maybe in for a fortnight, two months, three months whatever … they might not come back on my rota. And I think ‘Oh I can’t go’ … you can’t go and see them. Unless it’s down on your rota to go down and see them. So that’s quite hard. Because you do get fond of them, you can’t help it. Well you wouldn’t be human I think, if you didn’t.

Liz’s reflection is a reminder that there is an emotional side to home care work for which workers may well need support.