“You never know what you could walk into”
: the perceptions and experiences of adult social care work for young adults in Teesside, North-East England

  • Duncan Fisher

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis explores the perceptions and experiences of 18- to 30-year-olds employed in adult social care (ASC) in Teesside, north-east England. Very few studies have examined young adults’ involvement in this heavily gendered sector, or how their experiences can contribute to understanding of austerity, and the UK welfare state and care regimes. Thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews with stakeholders (n=8), and prospective, current, and former young adult care workers (n=17), focuses on working conditions and practices. In addition, the care worker interviews and analyses investigate biographical and structural influences on decisions to commence, stay in, and leave ASC work. The evaluation of working conditions uses Guy Standing’s The Precariat (2016) as a starting point, and Arlie Russell Hochschild’s (2012) theory of emotional labour is a key point of reference for consideration of working practices.
This thesis contributes knowledge through bringing these conceptual and theoretical works together with literatures on paid care work, young people, and Teesside, in a novel way. It begins to redress an imbalance in the sociological and socio-historical literature of Teesside, which has hitherto featured relatively little scholarship on the work associated with, and performed by, women. Furthermore, insights on young people’s socio-economic and cultural circumstances bring new perspectives to policy debates on the sustainability of the ASC workforce.
Empirical findings show that, in ASC work, young people face varying, and on balance, inadequate levels of support, guidance and training; and endemic and normalised very low pay. At a time of labour shortage, significant barriers exist for young people in taking on, and remaining in, ASC work. A key finding reveals histories of paid care work within participants’ families, and/or participants’ prior personal experiences of unpaid care, to be strong influences on entering ASC employment. This raises questions around notions of choice, obligation and responsibility within the distribution of care work in its unpaid and paid forms.
Date of Award1 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Teesside University
SupervisorAnth Lloyd (Supervisor) & Maggie Leese (Supervisor)

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