How good are you at helping others? If your friends are upset at stupid o clock in the morning, are you the first person they call or are you avoided because you’ll just tell them to stop being a wuss?
If you like helping others and love the thought of making a difference to a complete stranger’s life, then consider a career as a support worker...
So, what will I actually be doing?
The role of a support worker is exactly what it says on the tin. You provide support to individuals and their families who need help, both emotionally and practically, so they can live a happy, independent life.
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The nitty gritty
A support worker role involves working with vulnerable people in different ways. You could be helping people who have mental health problems, learning difficulties, disabilities, recovering addicts, young offenders, those struggling with relationships... it could literally be anything.
No day will be the same. Some people may need emotional support to get them through a difficult time, while others will need a more hands-on approach. It’s your job to analyse their needs and draw up a care plan that’s unique to them.
Money, money, money
Ah, the all-important money question. You’re likely to start on a salary of around £17,000 a year, although it will depend on your employer, your location and if you are specialising in a certain area.
As you gain more experience and work longer in the role, your salary can increase to around £26,000 a year, with a further increase to £33,000 if you decide to work in a managerial position.
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The good points...
Put simply, you’ll make a genuine difference to people’s lives, which is guaranteed to make you feel all happy inside.
Nobody wants to be stuck in a dead-end job doing 9-5 until they retire, after all. Where’s the fun in that? Working as a support worker gives you the opportunity to progress, from moving up the career ladder to earning more qualifications. If you get enough experience and study hard to earn a NVQ, SVQ or a degree you could move up to a senior or managerial role.
...and the bad
Your working hours are often split into shifts and on call hours to ensure there is all day support. This can include evenings and weekends, so there’s no time to be a lazy bones.
Is there study involved?
If grades were never your strong point at school, don’t stress, it won’t affect your chances of being a support worker. What matters the most in this job is a passion for helping people and some work experience. Any past experience working in a health or support role is ideal. You’ll need to show you can help people with a variety of issues and requirements, and that you’ll always remain supportive.
If you haven’t got any experience yet, it’s never too late. Why not volunteer as an assistant in a nursing home, work with children who have learning disabilities, or consider doing charity work? It’s all useful experience.
If you’d like to earn some qualifications that you could prepare you for a career as a support worker, then courses such as a GNVQ in a health and social care subject will set you on the right path and give you an idea if it’s a career that suits you.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
This job involves helping others, not being judgemental about a situation, and providing support to change lives. It can be difficult so you’ll not only need skills but also patience, compassion and understanding. Basically, if you’re self-obsessed and don’t like dealing with people, this is not the job for you.
Ideal for those of you that don’t want to work a 9-5 repetitive job, some of the things you may be expected to do include:
Being a good listener – A good cup of tea and a hug can do wonders, but in this job you have to really listen, and listen well. One of the most important tasks is simply being there, and counselling is a huge part of the job.
Doing chores – Sounds like a simple job but doing chores around the house can be a massive help. You could do cooking, cleaning, shopping as well as helping to pay bills.
Helping people live independently – Teaching life skills and helping people live an ordinary life will be one of your main goals as a support worker. From teaching people how to budget money and getting them involved with the community to getting them suitable housing that accommodates their needs, you’ll be there along the way to help with it all.
Family ties – You won’t just be helping vulnerable people, you’ll also be helping the people that can be forgotten; the families. Some may struggle with their relative’s issues, or they may just need a helping hand caring for them. Whatever their need, you’ll need to support them just as much.