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I work with a team of 5 independent support workers on Mable. I often seek out new workers as people come and go.
In this article, I’m going to share what skills and qualities I look for in support workers.
For clients, this article can be useful to understand what qualities may be relevant to them.
For support workers, this article can help them understand how to make their role as a support worker rewarding and impactful.
Support worker profiles
I enjoy being able to see and read about the person on their Mable profile, before contacting them.
While reading profiles, there are recurring themes that can sometimes be off putting when choosing who to contact.
Often, profiles include terms such as ‘client focused, helpful and positive’. However, this does not tell me anything specific.
Support workers who use their profile to show a little bit of their real personality and share their skills, passions and past achievements, are the ones who stand out to me.
A well-written profile allows me as a client to make an educated choice. It helps me understand who is going to bring the most relevant skills to my life and who I want as part of my team.
I believe that by sharing more details about how they could impact a support team with practical skills, they are more likely to find better matched clients.
Professionalism and respect
For me, availability and professionalism are incredibly important in a support worker.
I believe punctuality demonstrates respect, passion and commitment. Of course, there are times when support workers may need to start later or change a shift. In such cases, communication and enough notice for the client to find a replacement is also very important.
People with disabilities deserve respect, just like anyone else. Not communicating with enough notice in an appropriate way can lead to a breakdown in relationships and trust.
I appreciate it when support workers can be flexible and try to accommodate any changes to support when needed.
Flexibility, good communication skills and punctuality mean that all support sessions will begin in the best possible way each time.
This will also enable the maximum possible amount of time spent with the client, which will be beneficial overall.
Support that adapts to the client’s needs
As people with disabilities are unique, support workers should be able to adapt to each individual person while being themselves.
This includes being flexible in your approach, the way you communicate with your words, and your body language.
It is important for clients and support workers to be well-matched. This doesn’t mean support workers have to be similar to their clients.
It means the way in which support workers approach their work makes the client feel comfortable and supported, but not authoritative or condescending.
People who need support deserve to be treated with genuine care.
I also believe a support worker should be able to challenge respectfully and push the person with disabilities to reach their full potential.
In my experience, support workers can often fear offending clients, and so, they may not ask questions or communicate when they are unsure of something.
They may have the best of intentions, but this approach isn’t helpful for either person and may be more offensive.
People with disability can have good intuition, and they are likely to sense that a support worker is being cautious. It might leave them feeling isolated and disheartened, so respectful curiosity is very important.
If my support workers tick all these boxes, they can predict and give me the support I need, or what I’m struggling with, before I even know it myself.
They provide solutions and supports in ways I don’t even notice, and this makes me feel like everyone else.
About Uli Cartwright
Uli Cartwright is the founder of Life is a Battlefield, where his team of people with disabilities, support workers and industry leaders use advocacy and consulting to bridge the gap between society and people with disability.
Editor’s note: Image is for representational purposes only.