Under new government regulations, trained and supervised 16–18 year olds will be allowed to provide personal care.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Department of Health (DH) have jointly developed a more flexible approach to care provision.
The DH's National Minimum Standards (NMS) previously stated that staff providing personal care to service users must be aged 18. The new arrangements will therefore bring more young people into the care industry.
The new guidelines also state that care homes must fulfill appropriate regulations and the person receiving care must have their choices respected as far as possible regarding who performs the tasks for them.
Care workers under 18 who want to deliver personal care must have completed, or be undertaking, the Apprenticeship in Health and Social Care and have proven their competence to carry out tasks.
Paragon Skills for Industry, a local apprenticeship provider, has welcomed the announcement. Its care programmes' director, Carolyn Maple, said: "This is a new and exciting opportunity for employers in the care sector to take on keen young people who are looking to start a career in health and social care.
"Previously, opportunities for 16–17 year olds were limited because of the regulations that govern care homes.
"Now we are anticipating an increase in the number of young people who approach us for a career in this rewarding and growing sector. Employers need to take advantage of this new source of potential employees."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"I think they should be made to take the social care NVQ for two years first, then be allowed to do personal care at 18, not 16. Some elderly people wouldn't like 16- or 18-year-olds to perform personal tasks for them. Although we know some teenagers are responsible" – Carole Cadman, Oldbury
"NO NO NO. As a retired nurse and working with young people, they are just sorting out their own feelings with sexual issues, it would be wrong to subject them to this type of care, there are many worthy jobs to do till they are of an age to take on such a roll" – Katie Smith, York
"All very well and good but the training and employment policy will need to be airtight and not open to the employer interpretation. Employers in the care home situation will in certain circumstances perhaps use this new initiative to offer even lower wages and poor working conditions that do not offer sickness or retirement pensions to young employees who will never get out of thier employemnt situation. Far better to ensure that all care givers are have received training in infection prevention and control, confidentiality, accountability, chronic illness, to name but a few. These are a requirement of all care homes but do all care facilities follow these guidelines? Why introduce any new changes before these have been established? Carers need to be protected to meet the criteria for registration and encouraged to join a professional body, which will allow them to get the recognition they deserve" – Elaine Wilson, South Wales
"I do not believe that a 16-yr-old has sufficient life skills/experiences to give sound care to vulnerable people, on the whole" – J Walton, Calderdale
"No, too young to be caring for this vulnerable age group. Plus some of these 16-year-olds could be at risk of abuse" – Maggie Francis, Ireland
"I was 17 years old when I started training as a nurse and providing care for patients in a supported environment as long as this is introduced with, not only the understanding of dignity for the elderly, but also support for young people wanting to enter the workforce, i see no reason why this should be frowned upon." - Name supplied, Glasgow
"I am not so sure this is the best way to handle such a vulnerable group. What training can be given for this? Who is accountable to whom? Who monitors and guides the carer in this role?" - V Henry, London
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