Essential Skills and Qualities of a Support Worker

If you’re interested in becoming a support worker, read on. We explain more about this vital role and the essential skills needed to do this job well. 

Why Skills and Qualities Matter in Support Work

Being a support worker means taking responsibility for your client's wellbeing, often from a social point of view, ensuring they get varied experiences and work towards their daily goals. They may have a mental health issue, physical disability or a combination of the two and need extra support to get through day-to-day life.

You could be employed by the NHS or a private company, but the role will still include you supporting one or more individuals to live a life they couldn’t achieve on their own. This might include taking them shopping, helping them around the house, teaching them life skills or preparing them for a life event. 

This isn’t a simple job. You can’t give someone step-by-step instructions and expect them to follow along and complete a task. Because it’s about people, and people are unique and unpredictable. It is very rewarding though as you’ll often be part of someone’s life for a long time allowing friendships to build and progress to be seen.

Good care work is about instincts and forming meaningful connections. Knowing how far you can encourage your client to push themselves out of their comfort zone can be a fine line. If you get it right they will be supported in achieving things no-one would have thought possible for them. 

Key Skills Every Support Worker Needs

There are key skills that cover a lot of care roles and are particularly important to support work:

Empathy and Compassion

The need for empathy means you can put yourself in the shoes of someone you're helping. See how what’s happening around them could be impacting them and why life isn’t always straightforward for them. This quality builds patience and compassion, that will strengthen your relationships and increase trust. 

Communication Skills

Being comfortable expressing yourself through the spoken word, directly to a client or family member, and knowing that the way you explain things will be well-received and understood is an essential skill. This gives clarity to your interactions. Being a confident writer, means you can write the necessary client reports to best communicate their situation and get the best support from your extended team and other organisations.

Patience and Understanding

Finding patience and understanding when someone behaves unexpectedly, can be a true skill. Taking the time to understand their response and reflect on your own thoughts and feelings can help you work around an obstacle and lead to a very rewarding interaction, keeping the client’s wellbeing at the heart of what you do.

Problem-Solving Skills

After initial training in the role of support worker, you will begin to work independently, which requires a lot of decision-making to be done yourself. When problems come up you need to keep a cool head, assess all the available information and make a plan. Problem-solving is a skill you can develop and will become easier with experience.

Observation and Reporting Skills

Knowing that your clients deserve the best care involves you writing reports on their health and abilities. If they need external support from a specialist it could be down to the strength of your observational report that leads to extra help or finances being granted. 

Physical Fitness (if applicable)

If you’re supporting someone with a disability who needs physical help from their support worker, you’ll need to be in good physical shape yourself. You may need to pick someone up after a fall, help them out of bed, into a car or up the stairs. Make sure that if this is required you have all the training around the health and safety of physically supporting someone to avoid injuries. 

Important Qualities for Success

When applying for a support worker role you’ll want to evidence, in your CV and your interview, the below skills to reflect you are the perfect person for this work. 

  • Reliability and Responsibility – This could be as simple as your attendance figures in your last role or place of education. Talk about times you’ve taken responsibility for people, things or projects. 

  • Flexibility and Adaptability – You need to expect the unexpected in this role. Include examples to show you have changed the way you were working to take in new information or direction.

  • Positive Attitude – This can lead to a higher standard of care. So, speak positively about workplaces and people you’ve had interactions with. If you can have a character reference ready, this can give a new employer confidence in your approach to your work.

  • Ability to Work Under Pressure – When either time or resources are short and you have to complete something, always make a note of it and use it as an example of your skills. This is a rare quality, not everyone can stay calm under pressure.

  • Commitment to Continuous Learning – While looking for work it’s a good idea to sign up to a free online course. Something relevant to the care sector will show your dedication. 

How to Develop These Skills and Qualities

Training and Education

Earning a relevant qualification will put you ahead of other applicants. Signing up to do a  Level 5 diploma in Family Support Worker, is perfect for becoming a qualified support worker, we found a reasonably priced course.

There are also many relevant courses, suited for support workers, on the CPD website. Look out for online courses in safeguarding, first aid, counselling or health and safety. These are all skills you’ll need, although may also be offered in your first few weeks of training within a support worker position.

Gaining Experience

No qualifications or experience are required for this role, but they can help secure you the job. Experience volunteering in a care environment, or job shadowing can help you better understand how the support and relationships help clients develop.  

If you have a desire to help people you can use that passion in many ways. If you can make the time to volunteer, try and find opportunities with a variety of people. Doing work with children, people living with health conditions and/or older people, can help you work out what kind of role would suit you. 

Seeking Feedback and Mentorship

Finding a mentor can be a very helpful element of your professional journey. It can be anyone with some experience and willingness to support you through career decisions. It can help you with your professional confidence and resilience. 

Ensure when you are in a new role that a structure is in place for two-way feedback. You may work it out with your boss that a weekly meeting to review your work load and issues is helpful. Make sure you prepare for these meetings with what you’ve achieved, as well as what has been challenging. Also, ask for feedback from them on how you’re doing. Keep a record of all the positive feedback you get from clients, colleagues and your superiors. I can support your negotiations for a promotion or salary increase in the future.

Find Support Worker Jobs

At Social Care People we are a central hub for finding the right care role to suit your skills and requirements. Get in touch to find out what support worker roles are available and register as a candidate to make sure you don’t miss your next opportunity. 

Let Social Care People help you find your perfect job.


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