As working parents many of us decide to seek out a change in career, whether it’s to gain a more flexible way of working or because we develop new ideas about what we want to do. One area that is growing in popularity is the role of support worker. But what are the responsibilities of a support worker and what skills and qualities are required?
A support worker describes someone who supports a person in their daily life, often because they are elderly or have a disability. Because everyone has unique needs, the work they might do on a daily basis can vary enormously. Most support workers find their role very rewarding and enjoy the fact that every day is different.
A support worker’s duties and responsibilities might include helping their client with personal care and medical needs, assisting with household duties like laundry and cleaning, helping to cook and supporting them in their interests and hobbies. Often it’s about companionship and making sure your client has a meaningful day.
Support workers need certain qualities and dispositions rather than firm skills. It is important to be patient, kind and trustworthy, and a good communicator and listener.
Support worker qualifications are not always essential, but options include a Diploma in Health and Social Care or a Diploma for the Children and Young People’s Workforce.
All kinds of people have a need for a support worker at some point in their lives. Some support workers help children with disabilities, others focus on adults. Some support work is short term, for example, in helping someone who has been in an abusive situation or is recovering from injury or illness. Others might have support right through their lives.
While full time contracts are available, support work is highly suited to part time hours, as many of the activities support workers do are not required full-time, or follow shift patterns.
Another option is to be a ‘bank’ support worker, where you are allocated to jobs on a day to day basis, usually when a support provider is short-staffed or there is extra demand. It’s a little like being a temp in an agency, but with established support skills and experience. The downside of this is that contracts are often zero-hours, so the number of hours, and therefore the level of your income, are not guaranteed.
It’s easy to locate support worker roles using online job searches. There are jobs all over the UK – simply search for ‘support worker’ on our jobs page. You can also narrow down the search using filters for location, flexibility, pay and contract type.
Support worker jobs may come under the local authority, a charitable organisation or a private sector company. As a result the support worker salary range is broad. If you’re just starting out the pay can be fairly low, but the more experienced you are, the better the salary you can command.