Considering a career in care? Amy says 'go for it; it's definitely not a 'normal' job!
Did you always know you wanted to work in care?
When I was younger, I had the perception that care was only about looking after older people in nursing homes or hospitals. I hadn't considered working in it, but liked the sound of the support worker role when I was looking for an apprenticeship, and started that way. Now I'm a support worker in Learning Disability Day Services.
I don't think I'd want to do anything else now, I'm hooked on it! I don’t want to be in this role forever; I would like to progress my career around learning disabilities and I did have a temporary progression about four years ago. The only drawback with progressing in learning disabilities is that the more you progress, the less you're actually working closely with the people you support.
Tell us about your career since that first role.
Work funded me to get my Level 2 in Health and Social Care while I was an apprentice and then to do my Level 3 straight after that. I didn't have much time in work to do my course, but I didn't really need much from work, I just got on with it. I got good support from my tutor though, and people get time in work to do their coursework if they need it.
I enjoy my job so much that it's even inspired me to study in my own time to progress my career; I'm doing a Degree in Special Educational Needs at Holy Cross and really enjoying it.
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
The people are the best thing! The people we support, their families, our colleagues. It's also great fun not having a 'normal' desk job, doing activities and days out like karaoke, going shopping or to the pub, cooking or whatever people fancy trying. We've just finished planning our activities and we've added horse riding and rock climbing!
The people we support look forward to doing the activities even if they don't always like the planning side of things, so we come up with the ideas and make sure there's something for everyone to enjoy. Then everyone can look at the timetable and let us know which activities they want to get involved in. Some people have lists and lists of what they fancy doing, and some people are easy going about what they do!
What do you wish people knew about your job?
We hear a lot of misconceptions when we are in the community. I wish people knew that disabled people are people; they are all unique and should be valued as their own person. Also, I wish people understood what my role actually is, as people generally assume I work in a care home when I say I'm a support worker.
What qualities do you think are needed to work in care?
Patience, an open mind, a sense of humour and enthusiasm!
Patience goes without saying - you have to give people time to understand and do things and you need to be open minded about people and not have expectations. They might not be able to do the same things you can but they can do things you can't. A lot of people are closed minded about disabled people. In care you might find yourself in some embarrassing situations, so if you've got a sense of humour you can laugh it off! Sometimes you need to provide the enthusiasm to get people involved in activities. You don't always need to, but you can get more out of people if you're enthusiastic about doing things.
What would you say to someone who was thinking about a role in care?
Go for it! It is an eye-opening role to disabilities and people's perception of disability.
I get a real sense of achievement when I support someone to reach their goals too. The people I support now are quite independent, but I remember once spending weeks and weeks teaching someone how to use a mouse and then showing them how to extend their computer session at the library for themselves by clicking on the session button and that felt great! It was a big achievement for them and it was just a little thing we can take for granted. I felt like I'd really accomplished something and it's stayed with me for years.
It sounds like you and Kim* have become close, is that true? How do you and your colleagues work together in your roles to support each other and the people we support, to live their best lives?
Yes, Kim and I sometimes work at the same base together and we've got close, it's good.
I've worked in some places where people are so negative; they made it obvious they didn't want to be there and it drags when you're there. But at Escape we're all a similar age and we get enthusiastic; everyone does their bit and you don't have to chase people to help out, we all work well together to do what needs doing. That helps to make work more fun!