"Finally I feel settled now."

Learning Disabilities Support Worker

This change in career has given me a sense of purpose in my life. I’m intending to have a career in Southdown. There is career progression here if you want it. There are opportunities.

I’m a Support Worker in a supported living service for five people with learning disabilities. Each client has got their own self-contained flat which is their home and private space.

We support them to live as independent a life as possible – from everyday tasks such as cleaning, washing, tidying, through to shopping and setting out meals for the week. We generally support all five clients with cooking. It’s an activity we try to get them involved in to their ability.

The whole ethos here is supported living – encouraging them to learn new skills and encourage them to do things themselves. We also support them with a wide range of activities like going to theme parks, concerts, football matches, theatre trips, swimming. Anything they’re interested in we support them to go to those. Thorpe Park is a particular favourite – everybody likes it!

We also support our clients to arrange and attend medical appointments – a lot of them have anxiety around these appointments so we provide emotional support.

Consistency is key for our clients – it helps people feel settled and happy. As a service we’re very good at maintaining that. If there’s something different coming up, we prep them for weeks and weeks before.

I enjoy the sheer variety of what we get up to. I enjoy making a positive impact in my work. And I’m learning lots of new skills.

It can be emotionally tiring and hard work but it is immensely rewarding and enjoyable and I know I’m making a difference. It’s also fun. The staff are really great – we all support each other. I’ve never worked in a place where people get on so well! I’ve learnt a lot just by watching staff and how they interact with the clients. We’re all here for the same reason.

You need to radiate warmth to be a Support Worker. You need patience and empathy. You need to be enthusiastic and also flexible to fit in with the needs of your client. You need to be honest and reliable, friendly and compassionate, and have a good sense of humour.  You may have these traits already but you can also develop them.

Life experience helps too. I think you need to have a certain level of maturity. Our youngest staff member is 20 and she’s brilliant. She’s got great confidence. It’s good to have a mix of people in a service.

A sense of fun is important. Clients have their own traits and sense of humour. They’re all really good fun. They make me laugh and I make them laugh.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like work! I get paid to do this! I look forward to coming in which is unheard of for me. Who knew?! I don’t ever think, “Oh no, I’ve got to go to work!”

It’s made me happier. In fact my wife has said she’s seen a difference. It’s about making a positive difference because I’ve worked in a lot of jobs where I didn’t feel that. I’d always messed around with my career and was doing jobs I didn’t enjoy or which didn’t feel worthwhile. 

About 18 months after the birth of my second daughter, I thought I really fancied a change. I was thinking about counselling but then out of the blue I happened to be leafing through the local paper and saw the Support Worker advert for Southdown!

I’ve got two nephews who are autistic and so I’m aware of the challenges that people with autism can face. That’s why I was attracted to this job. I was also attracted to it because full training was provided and a background in care wasn’t essential.

Southdown’s training is excellent. I really got involved in the training and found myself wanting to contribute because I was enjoying it so much. I’m usually a listener not a talker! The Positive Behaviour Support training was my favourite. I learnt things I can apply to my life outside.

The other thing that attracted me was the flexibility of the working hours as I can fit it around child care. It’s worked so brilliantly for me and my wife.

This change in career has given me a sense of purpose in my life. I’m intending to have a career in Southdown. There is career progression here if you want it. There are opportunities.

Finally I feel settled now.

 

Southdown manages supported living services across Sussex. Supported living is where an individual owns or rents their own home and has control over the support they get and how they live their lives. Accommodation and support is provided separately. It can be very different for different people. For one person, supported living might be a few hours of support a week to enable them to live independently by themselves in a rented flat. For another it may be around the clock support in a shared house or self-contained flat.