What is a Support Worker?
Becoming a support worker is an incredibly rewarding career decision to make. Supporting people who need care and compassion gives you the opportunity to grow and develop skills not only in direct care and support, but in communication, problem solving and teamwork amongst many others. There are many roles you might play as a support worker, depending on the healthcare or social needs of the person you are supporting.
A support worker is somebody that can be relied on by people in vulnerable positions to work alongside them, to assist in achieving things that they might otherwise find difficult to do independently.
For example, somebody with a learning disability or mental health diagnosis might find it challenging to navigate their local community and could need support workers to advocate and speak up for them to work towards their goals. They may also require support with personal care or feeling enabled to make friends in their local community.
Support workers often work with families and professionals too, to ensure they are providing the best levels of health and social care to people, using their communication skills to listen, learn and act in the best interests of the individual.
Ultimately, as a support worker, you will be enabling people to live their best life, through delivering humanised care, helping people feel supported with their physical and mental health, and choosing to make a difference.
Role of a Support Worker
Support workers’ roles are varied, and this often means you’ll be working in different settings. You might work in someone’s home by yourself, or you could be working as part of a larger team of support workers all focused on delivering the best personalised care service possible. At times it takes many people to work together to complete the tasks required in providing the best healthcare outcomes for clients.
Support workers might find themselves working in an NHS hospital or care home if someone’s health becomes compromised in the community, to ensure they have the consistency and continuity they need in difficult times. All of this means that remaining professional in every environment is key to helping people effectively.
It’s important to recognise that support work is a profession that requires you to be able to think outside the box, developing your skills and knowledge in communication which ultimately leads not just to helping people in the way they need to be helped, but also enabling you and your team to have a rewarding career in the health and social care sector.
Responsibilities of a Support Worker?
The responsibilities and skills of a support worker vary, dependent on the person you are supporting. It is important to always remain professional, patient, compassionate and understanding; these are all key elements of successful support work. Some of the overarching responsibilities are listed below, but remember as humans, we all live varied lives and might need an assistant for different things. Therefore, every day as a support worker is different, and this is one of the best parts of the job.
You might work as an assistant with and for people with learning disabilities, or autistic individuals who need support workers to understand their communication preferences. This is fundamental to enable your clients to feel heard, valued, and appreciated. Skill development in this area is ongoing, and training in communication skills is a key part of the support worker role.
Another important part of the role is increasing your knowledge in Positive Behaviour Support which enables you to understand that all behaviour is a form of communication, ultimately impacting your ability to perform your role in the best way possible.
Support Worker Qualifications
The first thing you need to work towards becoming a support worker is the desire and the ability to help people. Having empathy is the most important skill you will need, before any other qualifications. You don’t necessarily need to have GCSEs, although skills in English and Mathematics would always be helpful.
Choosing a career and taking a job in health and social care is challenging; there are so many skills to learn and training courses to complete but jobs in this sector are incredibly rewarding. To gain entry into the support worker profession, there are several training courses and qualifications that are mandatory, and that all employers should be able to provide:
Advanced training is also available from employers, whether the NHS or social care employers, such as the opportunity to gain National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) to support further development and help people further their careers. You might not need GCSEs to complete your NVQ, and your employer will be able to guide you through the process.
It is also possible to gain an apprenticeship at the start of your support worker journey, to broaden your education, knowledge, and skills before committing to a role in health and social care. Your employer may have an Apprenticeship Programme running to support you to gain entry into your care career as an assistant, whether that’s within the NHS working in a medical healthcare setting, or in the community working a social care role.
Personal Characteristics of a Support Worker
Providing care involves so many elements of support in people’s lives, including healthcare, social care, support with mental health, and physical needs, communicating with family, supporting with practical tasks, enabling someone with a disability to have equal rights and ensuring they are supported to live independently in their environment. It is more than just a job. The personal characteristics needed to become a support worker include, but are not limited to:
In order to become a support worker, you will need to qualify in the mandatory training skills required to become great at your job, but it all starts with being willing to work with people towards their personal goals.
Why Become a Support Worker?
Making the decision to become a support worker either in the NHS or in the community, perhaps working in someone’s home, is the ultimate path to fulfilment as a fellow human being. Each client you work with will have different needs, and require help with different tasks in different settings, so every single day will be different.
Support workers have the opportunity to change lives for the better, as well as develop their skills in a job that makes an impact on every single client they support, and further their careers in healthcare doing a job that matters.
Some additional benefits include:
How to Apply if you are Looking for a Career as a Support Worker?
If you are looking for a role as a support worker, these are your next steps: