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"As a support worker, you have to wear many different hats. You're a professional but also a companion, coach, educator and community bridge-builder. You help people live fulfilling lives, to be an inclusive part of their community, and you enable them to develop and maintain relationships. Your support means they have choice and control in their lives. Variety is very much part of the role."  Fran Winney, Regional Operations Director

What is a support worker?

Put simply, a support worker is someone who supports a person in their daily life. The role of support worker is so varied – every person has unique needs, so this makes the job unique too.

The role is primarily focused on enabling and supporting people to live their lives as independently as they can. At Lifeways, our support workers support people with a diverse range of disabilities, from mild learning disabilities, autism and autism spectrum conditions to acquired brain injuries and mental health issues. This could be supporting someone in their own home, or in a purpose built supported living apartment, or a shared house or residential care home. The role will also vary depending on the level of support that the person requires.

Regardless of a person’s needs and where they live, the role of support worker always has the prime focus of:

  • Supporting people to reach their potential
  • Supporting people to achieve and maintain whatever is important to them, both now and in the future
  • Working with other people in their lives, families, friends, doctors and professionals

What sort of thing does a support worker do each day?

Supporting someone in their daily activities and helping them lead a fulfilling life can involve things like:

  • Helping with personal care
  • Assisting with household tasks like doing the laundry
  • Supporting and monitoring health care needs – this could include helping with medication or special diets or more complex procedures such as peg feeding
  • Supporting people to pursue their interests and hobbies
  • Helping with every day tasks such as writing a shopping list, grocery shopping, paying bills or writing a letter
  • Supporting people to learn new skills
  • Enabling people to pursue their dreams and ambitions

Making friends is often difficult for the people we support, and so a key aspect of support work is promoting and planning meaningful days for people. This could be supporting people with their hobbies and interests, getting involved in community groups, or trying a new experience like cooking or taking a course.

For many people we support, communication is not easy.  An important aspect of the job is understanding how the person communicates and how others can best communicate with them.

As a support worker you’ll often find yourself working with other professionals like therapists and doctors. You’ll be part of an inclusive team, working together to provide consistent support and to improve quality of life.  You’ll also work with the friends and family of the person being supported, and provide them with reassurance, involvement and feedback.

Why become a support worker?

It’s not an easy job sometimes, but it’s incredibly rewarding. It’s guaranteed that every day will be different. You’ll get a great feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction when you see someone grow in independence. You’ll share new experiences together and celebrate their successes. You’ll enable people to overcome fears and challenges while building their confidence and self-esteem.

As a support worker you are creating lifetime experiences and memories with the person you support and their families. It can be very fulfilling – at the end of each day you will know that you’ve made a positive difference.

What kind of skills or experience do I need to become a support worker?

With support work, it’s not always about the qualifications. We’re looking for people with what we call the “right heart and mind.” We welcome people who have a range of life experiences, maybe you have supported loved ones, had a customer-facing role or just enjoy working with people.

The ideal support worker is someone who is a good communicator and listener, someone who is calm, positive, trustworthy and honest, patient and cheerful.

You need to be able to show empathy, have initiative, and be able to put people at ease and help them feel safe and comfortable. You’ve also got to be able to multi-task; remember, every day is different!

As a support worker for Lifeways, you will have access to fantastic training and development opportunities. There’s a comprehensive induction programme where you’ll learn about our company values and our person-centred approach to service delivery.

Following attending your induction you will be fully competent and confident to provide quality care to the people you support. You will have achieved your mandatory training, and also the knowledge criteria of some of the Support Worker (Care Certificate) Standards.

Your learning journey will continue after your induction, with further learning sessions relating to the person you are supporting. You can also attend training sessions that cover things like moving and handling, safe swallowing and physical intervention.

As you start work in your service you will also experience a comprehensive local induction to your service. This will detail the specifics around your service including who you will be supporting, and you will also have an opportunity to meet with the team.

Our support workers can undertake NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Health & Social Care or an appropriate qualification once their role has commenced.

How much does a support worker earn?

The average salary for a support worker in the UK is £8.71 an hour this varies from region to region. There are many career progression opportunities available at Lifeways.