How long have you been a support worker?
It’s hard to believe but I’ve been a support worker for 35 years. It’s incredible to think that I’m still supporting some of the same people I met all those years ago on my very first day of work
What made you decide to become a support worker?
I first started to work at Hft on a part time basis, to supplement my income when I worked in a café, but as I started to settle into my new job I realised that this was what I wanted to do full time.
What personal strengths do you bring to your job?
I’ve always been good at building relationships. I’ve formed bonds both with the people we support and their families. I’ve always been here to support them through anything that’s going on in their lives, and the families trust me to be there for their loved ones. We’ve been on a journey together.
Everyone is different. I try to find ways of supporting each person according to their abilities, needs, and wants. For example, one person I support is non-verbal and was having difficulty in being understood, so I did a training course in Makaton (a language system based on symbols, signs, and speech) so that I could find a way to help her communicate. We took pictures of her making her Makaton signs and have put them up on the wall with what each one means. Now, everyone who supports her can understand what she is saying. It makes telling us what she wants so much easier for her.
What makes a good support worker?
The most important skills a support worker can have are patience, understanding, and listening. Developing these skills over the years has benefitted me not just at work, but in my personal life also.
I also believe that we should never stop learning. There have been so many changes over the years, in how people are supported. I love to see changes and move with them. I learn from the younger support workers. I like to see people with different outlooks. I love to learn and to listen to their views. I learn from them and they learn from me.
What has support work taught you?
I’ve learned that support work is not just about doing things for people, but supporting and encouraging them to do things for themselves. I love to see people achieve things, even small goals like making a cup of tea or getting the bus on their own. I recently taught a young woman to make macaroni and cheese. At first, I had to talk her through each step, now I stand back and watch her do the whole thing herself. It makes me feel very proud.
What kind of challenges have you faced in your career?
One of the most challenging times of my career was working during the pandemic. Being a support worker means supporting people through good times and bad. During the pandemic it was really difficult. The main priority was to keep everyone safe, both staff and people we support. It was a challenge for the staff, but even harder for people we support. At the end of the day we got to go home to our families, but they were unable to see friends and family for a long time.
I feel very lucky that the staff have had great support from our management. I’ve always felt that I can ask for help when I need it. I think Hft is special. My heart is here. I think it works because of the great staff and of course the people we support.
What would you say to someone thinking of becoming a support worker?
I would say go for it. My career has been a journey. One that I’ve really enjoyed. I believe I’ve made a difference in the lives of the people I support, and they have definitely made a difference in my life.