Care/support worker

Tynedale Horticultural Service, Minsteracres

I got into caring quite recently. I was a chef, I ran a catering company, then I started studying for a psychology course with the Open University. I’m doing my finals this month. I started here because I wanted to get some experience with care and psychology. There was a cleaning job initially, then I started doing casual shifts caring, and I love it, so it’s become more regular. When I finish my degree I want to keep doing this, and then maybe do some further education. I can work here and build up my practical skills in the meantime. 

I’m really happy here. It’s quite an unusual service as it allows people to fulfil their potential, it gives people a lot of freedom which I’m not sure is the same in all care jobs. I love this one, it’s right for me, and I think it’s perfect for the clients. The fact that staff and service users stay for so long says a lot about the service. 

For people who have learning disabilities your life is quite controlled because you’re seen as vulnerable, but here they have a lot more freedom to be themselves. That’s something I want to be a part of. 

I love the fact that we’re outdoors all the time, and that it’s manual. I need to be moving, it's a good form of exercise for the clients, and for me too. Being in nature is like therapy in itself. 

You need compassion for this job, the ability to be patient and look at the bigger picture. Take your time to get to know people, you don't know what their normal is until you've known them for a while. For people with limited communication it's important to have continuity, so you need to spend time getting to know and understand them. In the daily notes you have to be really honest about what's happened so no-one’s on the back foot. I feel like everyone is a big group of pals going to work, like on a building site. We don't take ourselves completely seriously, we have a laugh and get to know people so they trust us. Being able to create relationships but also enforcing the boundaries without saying no, being tactful, is important too. 

The fact that it’s horticultural really attracted me here; I garden loads at home, being a chef I grow vegetables. We do a bit of cooking here, we do chutneys and soups and things, especially in the winter. I'm quite maternal really, I like making food, I like finding out about people's lives, they've got really interesting stories to tell you. When we first meet people who can’t communicate really well you find it difficult but with time you learn to understand. Having a good boss helps too, Karen’s really good and understanding, I feel like I could go and chat to her about anything and it would be dealt with in the right way. In care if you feel supported by your manager you can do a good job. It’s good with safeguarding to know that your manager will do the right thing. 

This doesn't feel as much like care work, more like you're supporting people to work. There are people who need a lot of care but they seem to become more independent here. 

I think it’s important to find the right care job for you. I don't think I could do every care job, I’m lucky I found one that suits me. I think there is one for everyone though because it’s so varied. My mother is a live in carer which suits her, I couldn’t do it, but this one is perfect for me. And it’s fun, without a doubt the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had, that's why I want to stay.