What happens when caring responsibilities stop? There will certainly be grief from the loss of a loved one. Ex carers can also feel completely out of the loop, unsure where or even whether returning to work is an option, low in confidence.  Carers UK asked fellow carers and I to test a new e-learning platform designed to support current and ex carers who want to return to work.  It went live on Thursday, could it help you?

Preparing to return to work

Returning to work after a long break means first being clear about what you want to do. Then making a plan to do it. Getting started can be hard, so the new interactive e-learning programme, Learning for Living, aims to help you do just that. It’s completely free too.

Over the course of five interactive ‘modules’, carers can explore learning, communication skills and ways to develop assertiveness and confidence. 

Learning for living, for carers, returning to wok, employment

Real carers presenting the content and an unhurried pace made this quite pleasant for a learning session ;-). It’s a good mix of audio, film and clicky interaction with encouragement to take responsibility and properly think. Nothing bad happens if you make a mistake. The ability to print out the notes you make is helpful.

My tips for doing this e-learning are:

  • make a brew first
  • have a note pad and pen to hand, as things will occur to you
  • sign up with an email and password so you can log back in again
  • do one module at a time. Reflect a bit, then move on to the next one a week or so later.  Don’t try and do all the modules in one sitting (2-3 hours) like I did, it’ll do your head in
  • just do it!

Click here for the press release which contains more detail on ‘Learning for Living’, its City and Guilds association and credibility with employers.

Returning to… what exactly?

Returning to work doesn’t mean you have to be a professional carer. You may prefer a complete break from caring. The e-learning course helps you focus on what you’re passionate about, good at and how you take it from there.

Volunteering might be a good start if full time work seems daunting at first. It’s a low risk way to explore options, learn relevant skills, build your CV and confidence.

Finding the right job

The e-learning would benefit from additional practical help on finding the job you’d like to do. Help or signposting to current CV and covering letter writing techniques, where jobs are advertised and how to apply would be useful. Government departments, recruiters and other relevant services could partner Carers UK and the Dept of Health and Social Care to help deliver this.

Interviewing employers about the qualities they look for in recruits would help reassure those who’ve been out of the workplace for a while. Enthusiastic, positive employees who are open to learning new skills throughout their whole working life must be high up their list. Why wouldn’t that be you?

returning to work, carers, Carers UK
Carer e-learning ‘testers’ with Helen Walker CEO, Carers UK & Caroline Dineage MP

The elephant in the room

Ageism. Is it going to be a barrier? Honestly, it’s hard to know if that will affect a ‘mid life’ carer’s recruitment or not. It may depend on the role or the employer. The growing skills shortage is one increasingly overriding issue that even the most shortsighted employer will find hard to ignore. Perceived or real ageism needs to be dismantled fast, alongside other discrimination biases.

The e-learning course reminded me how many transferable skills carers do have. Delivering the business’s goals is critical but employers also need compassionate leaders and team members that support others’ welfare and development. Carers have strong organisational, complex problem solving and financial management skills which make them a great hire. We can always update IT, ‘process’ or technical skills if they’re out of date.  It’s much, much harder to learn or train for ‘soft skills’, values and emotional intelligence attributes like empathy and conflict resolution.

So, remove all clues about your age from your CV. It might sound glib but it’s a good start and ‘allowed’. Clean up your social media profiles too, especially if they’re public. Always present yourself positively on social media. Then, with a trusted ally, get a new haircut and makeover. I’m talking to the gentlemen too. So good for confidence.

Then, check your mindset. You may have some unintentional ‘self-limiting beliefs’. Get other perspectives from trusted friends, a group, a self help book or a website. Tina, an ex carer, talks a bit about this at the end of the ‘You and Yours’ Radio 4 programme which aired on Thursday and reviewed the e-learning course. I’ve inserted the audio clip below, it’s a good listen and food for thought.

you and yours radio 4, returning to work, carers, Carers UK
Radio 4 ‘You and Yours’ 13 Feb 2020, ‘Learning for Living’ audio excerpt.


If you’ve any helpful tips on returning to work, please share them with me and I’ll add them here.

In the meantime, ‘tits up’ (ref. Mrs Maisel in The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, Amazon Prime).



Caroline Dineage MP and Maud Learning for Living Carer, returning to work
Maud and Caroline Dineage MP
(days before her move to Dept of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)