It is the culmination of more than a decade of boardroom discussions, failures and frustrations. Now NACC chairman Neel Radia says care catering can finally put its “poor relation” reputation to rest with the arrival of the sector’s first professional qualification: Catering Level 2 Award in Professional Cookery in Health and Social Care.

In his four years of chairmanship and 12 years of membership, Neel believes the association has broken down barriers and righted the “injustice” suffered by care caterers. “The past perception has been that the care catering profession produces low-quality food with no nutritional value,” he says. “The reality is that consistently high-quality meals are produced for a wide range of people, with a variety of complex medical needs. Not having a qualification to reflect this, and set an industry standard, has been a huge injustice. We started the process of producing a qualification more than 12 years ago and 2018 has been our breakthrough year.”

Neel is a passionate advocate of the work carried out on a daily basis by care caterers and visits colleges across the UK to speak to hospitality students. “Recruitment in the care sector has always been the poor relation. Young chefs get attracted to hotels and restaurants – on TV you see that celebrity chefs always work in these areas which are perceived to be more glamorous. Care catering is the Cinderella of the hospitality industry. These are the barriers we face however the reality of what chefs do in our sector is highly skilled; producing food that works on different levels, taste, nutrition, eating difficulties. People still look at what was served 20 years ago, not appreciating how far the sector has changed and evolved. As we travel around colleges I’ve found many college lecturers come from the hotel and restaurant world, they obviously talk to students about their experiences in this. That is another barrier we face as an association.”

With over 20,000 care homes in the UK today and an ageing population, the care sector is growing fast – with 60% of the population expected to be over the age of 65 by 2020. Adds Neel: “It is a growth sector with a lot of opportunities. Talking to care caterers they enjoy the good working hours, free weekends and evenings and the ability to demonstrate a very high skill set. “I spoke to a care caterer recently, who, on that particular day, had to produce 50 meals in one sitting – some for people with dysphasia, others who needed their food fortified, a few for diabetic diners and others with intolerances. “Care caterers are being really creative in what they are doing. They are not just producing nutritional, tasty and attractive looking food, but they are providing peace of mind for the families of people in care homes across the country.” For more information about the Level 2 Award in Professional Cookery in Health and Social Care qualification, education centres and learners should visit

The new qualification explained

Catering Level 2 Award in Professional Cookery in Health and Social Care is the first professional catering qualification for health and social care developed by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC), Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and the awarding body of the Institute of Hospitality (IOH).

Officially approved on the Ofqual Regulated Qualification Framework, organisations can now apply to become approved centres to offer the qualification. The qualification is designed for people who cater for patients and residents in a health and social care setting and focuses on developing their awareness of diet and appetite issues that may arise in this environment.

The Level 2 Award in Professional Cookery in Health and Social Care is part of the IOH suite of hospitality industry qualifications and complements existing NVQ qualifications in professional cookery.