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What is a support worker?

A support worker is someone who looks after the well-being of people in their daily lives. They help people living with different physical disabilities and mental health needs to live their lives more independently and support them to reach their potential by providing both physical and emotional support. The role of a support worker is so varied - each person has unique needs, which makes the job unique too.

What does a support worker do?

The day-to-day job of a support worker differs depending on the needs of the person they are supporting. This can include helping people to carry out their daily tasks to take care of themselves, teaching new skills, providing emotional support, and ensuring they are living a fulfilled life.

The role is primarily focused on enabling and supporting people to live their lives as independently as they can. At Lifeways, we support people with a diverse range of needs, including learning disabilities, autism, physical disabilities, acquired brain injuries and mental health needs.

As a support worker, you may find yourself working in a number of settings. You may be expected to work in people’s homes, in health and social care settings such as supported living services or care homes, and out in the community.

What is support work?

Support work involves helping people who require care and support to live as independently as they can. Support work can offer a very fulfilling and varied career path.

What are the responsibilities of a support worker?

There are many roles and responsibilities of a support worker, including:

  • Providing physical support which may include helping with household tasks and personal care.
  • Providing emotional support for an individual and their families.
  • Supporting and helping with health care needs, including routine checks or administrating medication.
  • Encouraging and supporting the development of personal skills through hobbies and interests.
  • Teaching life skills, such as shopping, using public transport and paying for bills.
  • Working with other healthcare professionals to ensure that all care needs meet the highest possible standards.

Support workers also help the people they support to form meaningful connections. This could be by aiding them in their hobbies and interests, connecting them with suitable community groups, enabling them to attend college or encouraging them to develop a new life skill such as cooking or money management. To achieve this, understanding how the person communicates and their likes and dislikes is an important part of the job.

Why become a support worker?

Being a support worker can be a very rewarding job. Even though the role can be hard and often challenging, making a positive difference to someone’s life and helping them become more independent brings feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction. It’s a great career choice for those who enjoy a varied job role and lots of interaction with others.

Some of the best parts of the job are sharing new experiences together, creating new memories and celebrating successes. You’ll enable people to overcome their fears and challenges whilst helping them to build confidence and self-esteem.

"As a support worker, you have to wear many different hats. You're a professional but also a companion, coach, educator and community bridge-builder. You help people to live fulfilling lives, to be an inclusive part of their community, and you enable them to develop and maintain relationships. Your support means they have choice and control in their lives. Variety is very much part of the role." 

Fran Winney, Regional Operations Director

What skills are needed to be a support worker?

There are certain skills that are beneficial to have when working as a support worker, for example:

  • An interest in helping other people, regardless of their condition.
  • The ability to communicate clearly and sensitively when talking to people and their families.
  • Good listening skills.
  • Great problem-solving skills and the ability to adapt and act accordingly to situations.
  • Good time management skills to be able to support the needs of multiple people.
  • The ability to keep up with changing standards and codes of conduct in the social care sector.
  • The ability to work both alone and as part of a team.
  • A high level of patience and emotional resilience.
  • Being empathetic towards everyone.
  • The ability to make good, positive relationships with people and their families.
  • The ability to communicate with other healthcare professionals.
  • Great verbal and written communication skills.
  • A non-judgemental attitude regardless of a person’s needs.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure and when dealing with challenging situations.

What qualifications are needed to be a support worker?

Becoming a support worker doesn’t require any specific qualifications. Experience in the care sector is helpful but not required. When starting a support worker role, employers will often provide some form of training, especially for newcomers, which provides an insight into the roles and responsibilities of the job role.

Even though specific qualifications to become a support worker aren’t required, NVQs or similar qualifications in the health and social care sector can give applicants an advantage. The government’s new T Level qualifications - particularly those in Health, would also be a good option to help start your career as a support worker.

For people who may have had personal experiences - whether that’s a sibling with autism, or a family member who has a physical disability, they may find their experiences can assist them with their role as a support worker. 

What’s the application process to become a support worker?

The application process to become a support worker is relatively straight-forward. If applying for a role via the Lifeways website, you will need to submit a CV and fill out a short application form. Successful applicants will then be invited to an interview which usually takes place online. All successful applicants will need to undergo a DBS check as standard.

Our careers page has a number of helpful resources to help those looking to apply. You’ll find CV builders, interview tips and instructions on how to use Microsoft Teams - our preferred online communication platform.

What is the induction process like at Lifeways?

When you start a career at Lifeways, you will receive on-the-job training and will complete an induction course in your first few weeks. You’ll also shadow another support worker for a few weeks, too.

You’ll also have access to fantastic training and development opportunities. There’s a comprehensive induction programme where you will learn about our company values and our person-centred approach to service delivery. After completing your induction, you’ll be fully competent and confident to provide quality care to the people you support. You will have achieved your mandatory training and also the knowledge criteria of some of the Support Worker (Care Certificate) Standards.

Your learning journey will continue after your induction. You’ll receive further learning sessions relating to the person you are supporting. You can also attend training sessions that cover things like moving and handling, dysphagia and safe swallowing and physical intervention. 

Liam found a new happiness in support work, after joining Autism Care - part of the Lifeways Group, in 2009. 

“Lifeways provides so much training like manual handling, risk assessments, fire safety, nutrition, medication, restraint training, first aid and so much more. It makes a huge difference being properly trained. Not only are you given the opportunity to learn new things, but the knowledge has really boosted my confidence.”

As you start work in your service, you will also experience a comprehensive local induction. You’ll have an opportunity to meet with the team, and the people you will be supporting. Our support workers can undertake NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Health & Social Care or an appropriate qualification once their role has commenced.

Is there opportunity for career progression?

In the care industry, there is a lot of room for career progression. Many companies offer support workers the chance to work towards an NVQ, SVQ or degree whilst working. This can enable progression to a more senior support worker role or managerial position. 

There are many career progression opportunities available at Lifeways, and we offer nationally recognised qualifications which mark out a clear career pathway from an adult care worker through to managerial positions. Regular training opportunities such as first aid training help our support workers stay up to date with the ever-changing professional standards in the social care sector.

How do I know if becoming a support worker is the right job for me?

There’s no better way to understand the role of a support worker than to speak to someone who does the role themselves. At Lifeways, we hold regular career days and attend job fairs. This gives people interested in the role the opportunity to meet people first hand and talk through the role in detail.

For those in full time education, whether that’s university or college, we employ students throughout the summer break to offer them a chance to experience a career as a support worker. Not only is this a great experience, but a way for them to gain a thorough understanding of what it is to be a support worker, and a great opportunity should they decide to follow this path after completing their education.

How to become a support worker?

If you’re looking for a support worker role, please take a look at our careers section. We have many exciting opportunities across the country. You might also like to read our blog to find out more about what a career in supported living is like.

If you have any questions about becoming a support worker in one of our many Lifeways locations, please feel free to get in touch.

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