More male care workers needed, says providers’ chief

More male care workers are needed to look after older people, the chief executive of Care England has said.

Prof Martin Green told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government should do more to recruit men into front-line adult social care roles.

He claimed that as an increasing number of men are living longer, more men are needed for their personal care.

The Department of Health said it would always encourage more people of either gender to become carers.

“We have an ageing population and a lot of people who receive care into old age now are men,” said Prof Green.

“The majority of carers are women. When it comes to personal care in particular, some men prefer this to be done by a male rather than female.”

Care England says it is the largest representative body for independent care providers in England.

Its members include single care homes, small local groups, national providers and not-for-profit voluntary organisations and associations, providing services for older people and those with long term conditions, learning disabilities or mental health problems.

Prof Green said that “entrenched societal perceptions” stop men from considering care work.

“The problem is people always see caring roles as being female roles. We need to make society understand that everyone has the potential to be carer,” he said.

Government statistics show 84% of carers across the sector in England are women, and just 16% are men. This figure has remained static since 2012.

“The government could be much more systematic in their approach,” he continued.

“They could make sure that every school understands that care career paths are for men as well as women, they could portray more men in government information on care roles, and they should put more emphasis on reaching out to men when they advertise care role vacancies.

“This is about every arm of government working to change the perception that care roles are just for women.

“More importantly, it’s about every citizen examining their own pre-conceived notions of who delivers care.”

Eighty-year-old Jonathan Ryan has severe mobility problems and lives in West Hall residential home in Surrey.

He told Today he wished there were more males caring for him: “From a personal point of view – having showers and baths and personal washing and things, I would much rather be washed and bathed by a fellow male. It makes me feel awkward. I would much prefer a male, I must admit.”

Other factors include a negative view of the sector’s wages and salaries, conditions of service, and opportunities to progress.

Mark Hand works as a carer. He says that his job “raises a few eyebrows” but his gender does not stop him or his female colleagues from doing their jobs effectively.

“It sometimes takes a bit of time to break down barriers when you’re working with a woman as a man and vice-versa,” he said.

“But as long as you show plenty of compassion, dignity and you treat them with respect then those barriers do come down and they are quite happy for you to look after them.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “We would encourage more people, including men, to join the social care workforce.

“There are a wide range of opportunities for both men and women and we have published guidance on how care companies can attract more men to the profession.

“Hundreds of thousands of care workers will benefit when we introduce the National Living Wage, which will also help encourage more people to join the sector.”

For Mr Ryan, it’s not just a matter of personal preference – he also said he feels in safer hands with men.

After a recent serious fall, Mr Ryan said that it was the sheer strength of a big male carer that meant he was lifted out of an awkward position.

“He literally dragged me gently out but firmly and then he got behind me correctly and lifted me up.”

One of the largest not-for-profit care home providers in the UK, Anchor, says the lack of male carers is storing up problems for the future; they have started a recruitment drive in schools and colleges to attract more men into the role.

Research by social care focused charity Skills for Care says men are often put off from becoming carers because of the perception that it is a career with unpleasant routine tasks.