How much does a support worker make? Plus duties and skills

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 27 August 2022

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you think of those that are vital in looking after the most vulnerable in the country, you think of support workers first. These people play a vital role in making sure that vulnerable people have the help they need and can live their best lives. Many people don't know exactly how much a support worker makes, how their pay works or the basics of what a support worker does. In this article, we answer the question 'how much does a support worker make?' and outline some of the skills they need.

How much does a support worker make?

When you see a support worker helping a vulnerable person, you may find yourself wondering, 'how much does a support worker make?'. After all, these are key roles, and those working in them do a lot of work to make sure that those they support have all the help they need. The average wage of a support worker is £10.54 per hour, which translates to an average annual yearly gross income of £24,952. It's important to note that this is assuming a standard 37.5-hour working week.

Due to the flexible nature of the role, support workers can find themselves working more than this amount of time. This means that the annual income of a carer is highly flexible, and for the most part, depends on the needs of the person in their care on a week-by-week basis. Whilst some support worker agencies are strict about the hours their employees work, working independently as a career could see you taking on a significant number of hours.

Related: How to become a support worker: a step-by-step guide

What does a support worker do?

A support worker has a wide range of duties to fulfil when looking after the vulnerable. It is important to remember that these duties can vary depending on the specific needs of the person requiring support. Below are some of the most common duties of a support worker:

Assist in taking medication

One of the primary tasks of a support worker is to help the person they are caring for with day-to-day tasks. This includes taking their medication and ensuring that the patient receives the correct doses at the right time. Without medication, those requiring support could see their conditions worsen. This is especially important for those with mental or psychological conditions, who may otherwise forget to take their medication or forget they need medication at all.

Completing regular activities

For those with degrading conditions, daily tasks such as getting food from the shops and organising bills can be difficult. In the case that a vulnerable individual is unable to get their groceries or pay for vital utilities, they could find their lives at risk. Support workers can offer help and advice to those that desperately need it, ensuring they cover all of the essentials and there is no risk of a loss of life or severe worsening of health. This is one of the key ways a support worker helps those in need that makes a fundamental difference.

Providing medical support

Those that need a support worker may also be those who require medical aid more often than anyone else. Whether it's a small fall leading to brittle bone damage or a cut that blood thinners may worsen, what would be a small accident becomes far more dangerous. Support workers have a very thorough level of training.

This means that they are ready to respond to medical emergencies backed up by First Aid and CPR training, so they can do their best to look after the casualty until medical professionals are on the scene. Support workers can make an ongoing life-changing difference for those that need them, but in this case, they can be directly life-saving too.

Providing emotional support

Individuals that need support workers have often gone through traumatic experiences. These can include life-threatening illnesses, complex family situations and incidents such as car crashes. Experiences like these can be difficult to recover from at the best of times, but without people around you to provide an emotional framework, it can be even more difficult.

Support workers have the training to offer emotional support to vulnerable individuals and their families. If a support worker needs to discuss more emotional topics in a sensitive and controlled manner, their training means they are in the best position possible to talk through the issues the person they are supporting has. This emotional support can help the patient towards a resolution without creating additional stress.

What skills do support workers need?

A support worker has a wide range of skills to be able to properly look after a vulnerable person in a range of situations. These skills mean that support workers are highly versatile and always ready to react in an evolving context. Some of the most important skills for a support worker to have include:

Communication

Communication is at the heart of any successful support worker. A support worker needs to build up a relationship with the person that they are looking after. Being able to understand the wants and needs of a vulnerable person allows them to offer the best support possible, even using non-verbal communication to know what a vulnerable person's requirements are without needing to be told.

Related: How to improve your communication skills

Empathy

Support work is a highly emotive vocation at times, and getting a proper emotional understanding of the person you are looking after is vital to providing the best possible care. Empathy means that you can understand exactly what the person you're looking after is feeling. In turn, the quality of your care improves as you develop a deeper personal connection.

Related: A guide to cognitive vs emotional empathy (with definitions)

First aid

Emergencies are a common occurrence in the workday of a support worker. This means that training in first aid is key to providing the services required. In the case that a vulnerable person hurts themselves, their support worker can respond quickly and easily, offering the assistance needed without evolving into a stressful situation.

Technical skills

Many utilities services are moving online, and the majority of elderly and vulnerable people lack the technological literacy to stay on top of these evolutions. Support workers are increasingly training in technical skills so they can support people through paying bills online and registering for services that are otherwise accessible. Technical proficiency is also important to log notes and keep accurate records.

Time management

Patients may have appointments with medical professionals or weekly hobbies that improve their mental health. Support workers keep track of these scheduled events in the weekly calendars of the person they are caring for. Being reliable and carefully managing their time ensures they and their wards can attend to all their commitments.

Adaptability

Where in some jobs you may expect to use the same skills and abilities daily, support workers use their full skillset depending on the person they are supporting. Some people require more medical assistance than others, while others could be looking for more emotional support. Knowing which skills are necessary for which person can help to tailor your support.

Related: What are adaptability skills and how can they benefit you?

What jobs are similar to support workers?

Several roles require the same skills and competencies as a support worker. Split between state and private employment, there are plenty of options for a support worker to change jobs. Some of these jobs are below, with a brief description of their responsibilities:

1. Caregiver

National average salary: £11.39 per hour

Primary duties: A caregiver has similar responsibilities to that of a support worker. Caregivers, also known as carers, can often find themselves working in a 'live-in' role or at a nursing home, offering round-the-clock support for their patients. The unsociable hours are a key reason for the higher pay than support workers receive.

Related: What does a live-in carer do? (With salary information)

2. Nurse

National average salary: £15.37 per hour

Primary duties: Nurses typically work for hospitals in the health sector, often employed by the public sector. Private sector nurses typically receive higher pay than those employed in the public sector. These jobs use the same medical competencies as support workers, with more restricted shift-based hours and far more patients.

Related: Nurse role and responsibilities plus the skills needed

3. Mental health nurse

National average salary: £25.14 per hour

Primary duties: Mental health nurses use the same competencies as support workers but primarily focus on patients with psychological or mental health issues rather than physical ones. Mental health nurses also work on a shift-based schedule. Typically, mental health nurses work in a hospital or larger institution than with independent patients.

Related: How to become a mental health worker (plus duties)

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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