"This year has pushed us to be stronger and more determined"

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Support Worker

We have had to adjust the way we support clients so it is safe and suitable for their needs

My name’s Mandy, and I’m a Support Worker at a supported living service for adults with a learning disability in Burgess Hill. I’ve been working here for nearly eight years now. I absolutely love it!

We support clients to live as normal and independent life as possible. Clients here live like everyone else but need extra support around everyday tasks. For example, they might need help with their personal care, shopping, guidance when cooking their own meals, and support when going to the doctors and dentists.

It’s about encouraging independent living. It’s very important we allow clients the independence to do things themselves and we are here to support, prompt, and suggest if they find some things difficult or frustrating.

My job satisfaction is high. I feel so happy. I really love seeing clients achieve something. It can be the smallest thing but to see the pride in their eyes and faces is just amazing. And it makes me feel proud that I’ve helped someone do something today that maybe they couldn’t do yesterday. It’s a wonderful feeling. I think I’ve found my vocation. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

It’s a great place to work – we have such a wonderful team here and the clients are happy. Visitors and bank staff all say what a warm welcome they get, and you can’t get higher praise than when people say how lovely it is to work here!

Since the first lockdown, we’ve all had moments when we’re at a low ebb. The wonderful thing about this team is there’s always someone to pull you up if you’ve had a bad day. We’re such a supportive team. Our sense of humour has gone off the scale this year – it’s had to! I think people would describe me as the lively one who’s up for anything!

We’ve grown closer as a team. We cooperate with each other and we’re professional. If you’ve had a challenging day, someone else is there to support you. I think everyone’s absolutely brilliant here.

It has been quite complicated to keep up with all the changes from government since the beginning of the pandemic, but guidance from Southdown has been clear.

Every client has had an individual risk assessment which assesses their vulnerability. Now that we are out of a second lockdown, it will be safe for some of our clients to see their families at Christmas.

Throughout this year a lot of families have kept in touch with each other over Zoom and Facetime. It’s been brilliant that they can still chat to someone who they’d normally have a coffee with.

During the first lockdown it was really difficult for clients but I have to say I think they coped incredibly. And they are still coping incredibly.

We were having to be very creative and find really fun things to do within these walls. We did a lot of art with the clients – we made VE Day banners, lockdown t-shirts, designed a Christmas card, and we also made a horror film! We tried to think of as many fun things to do to keep their spirits up and stop the frustration they were feeling.

It feels like a lot of things that helped make clients happy have been taken away. We can’t have cups of tea in their flats now because it would mean taking our masks off. It’s so hard when a client is crying and desperately needing a hug and they don’t understand why we can’t give them one. That’s really heart-breaking. It’s been a struggle and has got to all of us at different points.

We have had to adjust the way we support clients so it is safe and suitable for their needs. We’ve been going for long walks with clients. They really enjoy it and we can also get a takeaway coffee when we’re out. We’re supporting them to see there are small glimpses of normality out there.

We’ve had one client who wanted to do some dance routines so we’ve joined her! It’s all good fun and has been good for physical exercise. Another client loves going to football matches, so we’ve managed to get a live feed so he can watch the matches live on his IPad!

This year I will be working over Christmas as we will have some clients here. We are going to make it as fun as possible! Dinner will be cooked in the staff flat and then taken to the individual flats.

During December I dress up every day in something Christmassy! I’m sitting here in an Elf t-shirt as requested by one of the clients today! Everyone loves it!

This year a colleague and I decided it would be nice for clients to have a little Advent gift each day until Christmas. We went to the pound shop and bought lots of presents like chocolate coins, mugs, nail varnish, and deodorants. It took a lot of wrapping!

Each morning the sleep-in staff member leaves an Advent gift outside clients’ flats, so when they come to their front doors they’ll find something for them. It’s the little things that make a difference.

We’re there for our clients 24/7. Our clients are amazing people to work with. They have their good days, their bad days, their laughter, their cheekiness.

For the first month of the pandemic it was really challenging. This year has pushed us to be stronger and more determined.

 

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.