Developing a career as a support worker can be incredibly rewarding. It provides a real, hands-on opportunity to help people and give them more control over their lives. Want to become a support worker? We look at:

  • support worker qualifications
  • the skills you need
  • different type of support worker roles

There are a variety of different roles available, so individuals undertaking training can choose which direction they would like to go and will often have the opportunity for sideways movement later on.

How to become a support worker.

There can be quite a bit of competition for these roles, but there is a steady flow of jobs becoming available.

Qualifications.

There are no specific qualifications for support workers, but there are several that can boost a candidate’s chances of securing a good job. Good GCSEs help and a GNVQ or HND in health or social care is well worth obtaining.

Skills needed.

Support roles involve working with a wide variety of different kinds of people, so it is important to be open-minded and to have a good general knowledge of the kind of issues vulnerable people can face, as well as being able to learn quickly when presented with an unfamiliar situation. Good communication skills are essential and support workers need to have the patience to work with people who may have difficulty communicating. They also need good basic IT skills, excellent time management skills and practical skills for helping people with tasks such as moving around, filling in forms or managing housework.

Personal qualities.

Support workers need to have a natural ability to empathise with the people they work with, and genuine concern for their welfare at the same time as the ability to cope with distressing situations. They need to be able to work under pressure, either alone or within a team, and they need to be naturally well organised. They also need to be patient and hard working, with a firm commitment that makes it possible to get the job done, and done right, even when things are really tough.

Roles.

There are many different types of support worker, across both health and social care settings. Some are attached to clinics, care homes or similar institutions whilst others work in the community, visiting clients in their homes or connecting with them through community centres. They are needed at all times of day and night so many jobs are based around shift work. Tasks they may be expected to undertake include the following:

  • Helping physically disabled clients with tasks such as washing and dressing.
  • Helping mentally disabled clients to communicate their needs.
  • Helping addicts to stay off drugs or alcohol.
  • Assisting with the process of applying for benefits.
  • Collecting and recording statistics about case management or client experiences.
Types of employer.

Most support workers in the UK are employed by local council social care departments or by the NHS, but some work for private companies and others are attached to organisations such as the army or navy. There are also employers in the voluntary sector, primarily charities, and these can provide a good route into the sector for newcomers without much relevant experience. No matter who the boss is, support workers have the pleasure of knowing that they are doing something really worthwhile.