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What is a Support Worker? 

Supporting someone with a learning disability to live independently is a varied and rewarding role. 

A support worker is someone who enables someone with a learning disability, Autism, or other assessed needs, to live as independently as possible. Support work means doing things with and alongside the person you support, not for them or in their place. 

Each person's exact needs are different, so the duties a support worker does can vary enormously. 

Diverse group in unique outfits, all smiling together.

What makes a good Support Worker?

It's a lovely place to work. I work alongside an amazing team that is very compassionate and caring. Every day is different. My team are all very welcoming and I enjoy my time working here.
Kath, support worker with Affinity Trust for two years

What does a Support Worker do? 

The duties of a support worker vary, depending on what matters to the person they support, and what their individual needs are. A Support Worker's role is to enable someone with support needs to live independently, in a way that empowers the person, rather than taking over and doing the task for them. 

A typical day for a support worker may include supporting people with some of these things: 

  • Life skills, like understanding money, using public transport or shopping
  • Making healthy choices like preparing meals and taking exercise
  • Household chores like cleaning, vacuuming or washing clothes
  • Health and wellbeing needs, which may include administering medication or carrying out personal care
  • Enjoying hobbies, sports and interests, like gardening, horse riding, swimming, crafts and lots more
  • Making connections, like helping someone keep in touch with family or play a role in their local community
  • Some of the people we support have jobs, attend college or want to go on holiday 

Support workers normally work in the person's home, which may be supported living or the family home. It’s important to connect, share interests and be interested in the things that matter most to the person they are supporting. 

It can sound exciting to say a job has no two days the same, but in support, sometimes they are. Sometimes the people we support may like routine and struggle with change so they do the same things on the same days. Or they may be repetitive and tell you the same thing over and over. Every person who needs support is unique, and the Support Worker is there to provide person-centred support to meet their needs. 

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What skills does a Support Worker need? 

Star Wars superfan? That could come in useful as a Support Worker

If you are interested in a career as a Support Worker, you don’t need any previous experience as we will provide all the training you need. It’s much more important to have the personal qualities that enable you to provide effective support.

The qualities we look for in a good Support Worker are:

  • Empathy and Compassion - The foundation of support work lies in the ability to empathise with others. A Support Worker should have the well-being of the person they support in mind at all times. A compassionate approach helps create a trusting and positive environment.
  • Effective Communication - Clear and concise communication is paramount in support work. Support Workers need to share information accurately, listen actively to people they support, and collaborate with other healthcare and agency professionals.
  • Patience, Flexibility and Curiosity - Do you have the curiosity and patience to work out how somebody feels? Some people we support communicate in ways other than words and need support workers who are adaptable. Flexibility allows Support Workers to adjust to the changing needs of people.
  • Problem-Solving Skills - The ability to assess situations, identify challenges, and formulate effective solutions is crucial in support work. Support Workers must be creative and good at problem-solving to address the unique needs of each person they support.
  • Organisational Skills - While each person we support has a support plan that outlines their needs and goals, Support Workers often need strong organisational skills to help prioritise duties, manage time efficiently, and ensure that the people they support attend their appointments. Some people thrive on routine, so the support worker may need to introduce any changes slowly over time.
  • Physical and Emotional Resilience - The nature of support work can be emotionally and physically demanding but is also hugely rewarding. Resilience will help you cope with challenging situations and maintain a positive outlook.

If you are considering a career in support work, and you have some of all of these qualities, why not look at our current vacancies?