Support Worker

Do you think you could:

  • be non-judgmental about people in difficulty, whether or not their difficulties may be perceived as being self-imposed?
  • cope with people who might be schizophrenic, depressed or have some kind of obsessive-compulsive disorder?
  • think and act calmly under pressure?
  • offer someone emotional as well as practical support, by just listening to them and 'being there' for them?

If so, then being a support worker might be the job for you. You could make a real difference to people's lives by helping them achieve some degree of personal independence within the community. Support workers may be called community support workers, home care support workers or support workers (mental health), depending on which local authority social service department (or social work department in Scotland) they work for. Their role is to help people with mental health/learning disability problems overcome everyday difficulties. Support workers encourage and give practical support to people want to live independently.

Work Environment
Some support workers work in residential homes with long or short-term care residents. Others offer a support service within the local community for those clients who are in supported housing. Their work might include shopping with the client, attending community activities with them, taking them to appointments or simply being with them in their home environment.  Support workers usually have a number of clients that they get to know very well.  They have meetings and training courses with other colleagues.  Hours can vary and are often flexible, including evening and weekend work and sleep-in duties (to provide support in case of emergency). Support workers might work on a rota or shift basis to ensure a 24-hour a day service to clients.

Daily Activities
Every day is different for a support worker. It usually includes visiting various clients offering them any kind of practical support from helping them clean or decorate their accommodation to taking them to view a flat or to get their shopping. Some clients just need someone to talk to and 'offload' their problems on to.  For many clients, daily activities that are commonplace to most of us are a real struggle. They need support workers to help them do basic tasks, such as using their washing machines, cleaning their rooms, writing shopping lists, telephoning, handling their money and cooking basic meals. In addition, they might need help to register with a new doctor, order medication or to apply for grants such as the Disability Living Allowance. Before being able to be completely independent, clients often want the security of knowing that there is always someone else - their support worker - there for them. 

For support workers based in residential homes, time might be spent facilitating a session where a group of clients discuss various issues relevant to them.  Part of the day might involve some form filling for clients or making case notes and completing a logbook of any incidents or telephone calls. Sometimes support workers take clients out in a minibus, maybe to allotments where they are learning to grow their own food or to the local sports facilities.  Support workers liaise with community psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists to ensure that the best possible care and support are given to clients.

Skills & Interests
Support workers need to be:

  • interested in people; 
  • empathetic to those in need; 
  • non-judgemental; 
  • pro-active; 
  • patient and tolerant; 
  • good communicators.

They also need to hold a valid, clean driving licence.

Entry Requirements
There are no specific minimum entry requirements, although a GNVQ in Health and Social Care is an advantage and entrants need to be literate and numerate.
Previous experience of working with people in a social care/support setting can be very useful.  Some authorities might offer the opportunity to work towards NVQ/SVQ in Care (e.g. Certificate in Mental Health) modules.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
The continuing shift towards care in the community means that demand for the services of support workers is likely to continue.
It might be possible with experience to become a senior support worker or an assistant manager.

Further Information & Services
Health and Care Professions Council
Care Council for Wales
Social Care Association
Skills for Care
Community Service Volunteers

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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