What is a Support Worker?

A support worker's vital role is to assist an individual with their physical or mental health issues. The needs of the individual could be anything from epilepsy or dementia to more severe physical needs. A support worker will help them live their daily lives filled with friendship and positive experiences.  

Defining the Role of a Support Worker

With every individual client having a unique set of needs, every role a support worker takes varies. It might be to support someone with autism, mental health needs, learning disabilities or physical disabilities. The role needs to be flexible. There will be a requirement for physical and emotional support. It needs to support clients to live their most fulfilled lives, achieving things that matter most to them. The focus is on helping them live their lives and including them in their community, whilst keeping them safe and supported. 

This role can operate in a variety of settings from private homes to healthcare environments.  

The Importance of Support Workers

Support workers help individuals live independent lives through regular support. This can be a high level of support, needed for them to continue to live independently or by allowing family members to have respite. This can be vital for a family member, ensuring they get breaks and avoid stress or burnout. 

Being a good support worker can change an individual's life from something very closed in, to having further experiences, taking an active role in their local community, having the courage to learn new life skills and achieve their goals. 

Support workers empower the individuals they help, through friendship, emotional and physical support, education and medicine management. This gives the individual and their families the confidence that they can achieve great things. 

Who Do Support Workers Help?

Support workers are employed to help an individual with daily life due to an illness or health issue they may have.

  • People with Disabilities – May need support with daily tasks to live independently.

  • People with Mental Health Needs – May need a trusted ally to build confidence or accompany them to appointments.

  • Elderly Individuals – if dementia is an issue there is a safety role and supporting with the adjustment of mental abilities.

  • Children and Young People – May need to learn life skills like shopping, budgeting and house care.

  • Other Vulnerable Groups – this could be someone who has been abused or is unwell and needs support to develop whilst staying safe.

What Do Support Workers Do?

Support workers might take an individual shopping, help them run their house, support them on activity days or help with their care needs. The variety within the role is expansive, because of the varying needs an individual could have.

Carrie, a support worker from the south-west, said The individuals we help don’t want sympathy, they need understanding and support to make the most of their situation. I have taken clients to the theatre, taught them basic cooking skills, coached them through interviews and helped them secure volunteering roles. I am so proud of my team, my clients and myself. Every day is a new challenge and I love it”.

The Skills and Qualities of a Support Worker

First and foremost a support worker needs to be a good listener. To do this role doesn’t always require experience, a lot of the required training will be given once a person is employed in a role. There are some important soft skills though.

Here are our top six qualities necessary to be a great support worker:

  1. Empathy and Compassion

  2. Communication Skills

  3. Patience and Understanding

  4. Problem-Solving Skills

  5. Observation and Reporting Skills

  6. Physical Fitness (if applicable)

How to Become a Support Worker

Academic results aren’t the main focus when it comes to getting a support worker role. Soft skills are often a more important factor, however, basic numeracy and literacy are expected, and having some qualifications will always be a benefit.  

Qualifications

If a role requires qualifications, it will usually be GCSE level (or equivalent) in maths and English. 

Training 

The opportunity for training on the job is the way most support workers gain qualifications for this specialism. Learning basic nursing skills will be a priority. Then studying for a BTEC or NVQ in a healthcare discipline will be recommended. 

Gaining a Care Certificate can be a great way to improve your career prospects and open up opportunities for apprenticeships and promotions. 

Experience

Experience in the care sector is beneficial, but not required. Once on the job, you’ll be surrounded by experts and learning opportunities. As long as every chance is taken to listen, observe and learn from those already doing the job, progress should be fast. Career options can be accelerated through regular one-to-ones with a manager, who works with you to focus on your career aspirations. 

The Rewards of Being a Support Worker

The rewards of working as a support worker are instant and life-changing. The variety of work comes through different settings, different teams and variable hours – keeping the job interesting. The main rewards come from giving the individuals you’re caring for the ability to achieve their goals, live more independently and form strong relationships. Supporting someone to achieve something they never thought they could, gives self-fulfilment to the support worker. And there is a lot of fun and laughs to be shared whilst constantly gaining new skills. 

Where Can I Find Support Worker Jobs?

Social Care People host an expansive list of roles across the care sector. Register today to find out more about this important person-centred work and how to further your career in care.

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