Support workers – valuing their roles
Are we valuing support workers’ roles in learning disability services?
I’ve been doing a series of workshops at Provider Forums, Partnership Boards and conferences over the past couple of months with the aim of trying to work out what we have within our power to change in the settings we work in to enable people with learning disabilities to lead great lives. This post looks at how we are valuing support workers’ roles in learning disability services and suggests that maybe the support providers could play a much greater role in demonstrating the value of support workers, and what an amazing job it actually can be.
In these we’ve been looking at all the blocks that exist and what we can do to remove them. At a recent forum there was also a presentation about the impending funding cuts to adult social services which were frankly horrific. However, this is the world we live in and we’ve got to deal with it, or find another job!
One of the common problems we hear often is that support workers don’t feel valued in their work, and it’s therefore difficult to recruit the right kind of staff.
At one of these forums a senior manager from one provider attempted to sum the problem up by saying “the problem is that it’s low paid work, we can’t hope to compete with companies like Morrisons who pay their staff more”.
That’s when it hit me that maybe the problem is that maybe it’s the providers themselves who are talking down the value of their staff. We all need money to live but we’ve become fixated in this country of measuring value in terms of money. Support work isn’t well paid, but it’s a fantastic job and I know loads of support workers who love their jobs, and do great work, and aren’t in it for the money.
What about all those other things that add value to our work as support workers?
- Being part of someone’s life, and enjoying supporting them to live a great life
- Being part of a team
- Using our interests and skills to add value to our work (music, gardening, cooking, art, sport etc, etc, etc)
- Being able to work flexibly, supporting people in all aspects of their life
- Plus all the other workforce development related things that enable us to learn and grow in our roles.
I don’t think it’s just about the money. In fact I know support workers who almost find it hard to believe they’re being paid at all sometimes because they enjoy spending so much time with the person they support.
This is the key I think – we need to think more about the way we recruit our staff, and start thinking differently about the places that we’re looking for them. If we’re looking for people with a shared interest it may be that the traditional (and often expensive) ways of placing adverts in the local paper just don’t work any more. And it goes without saying that all people should be involved in choosing their support staff in some way.
Don’t believe the hype
We’ve just survived the media hype of Black Friday, and as I’m writing I discover we’re now on something called ‘Cyber Monday’. Our culture has become obsessed with money and places all value in that. Our challenge is to get us to think differently about ‘value’ and start to think about all those things we can do, which cost nothing, which show we value our staff.
The other thing of course is to make sure we’re recruiting the right kind of people, not people motivated by money but those motivated through sharing a common interest and sense of purpose about their work. They are out there, but we do need to be a lot more creative in how we connect with them.
What are your ideas?
Are we valuing support workers’ roles in learning disability services adequately?
We’d love to know your ideas on how we can create more value for support workers and also how we can all be more creative in finding the right kind of staff.