Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Learning disability charity makes plea for support staff

HoE Mencap Joe and GeorgeHeart of England Mencap has warned that the learning disability sector is facing chronic lack of care workers, and has set out to challenge some of the myths that surround the profession.

Heart of England Mencap supports individuals with learning disabilities across Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Its services range from day activities to residential care, also including supported living, short breaks, respite and outreach. But these services – enabling those with learning disabilities to live the life they choose – desperately need more support workers, they say.

The charity put out a call for people to see care as a career back in 2014 and has since attended careers fairs to find recruits, but staff are still urgently needed. Some of their job adverts only receive one or two responses.

“We desperately need support workers, they are absolutely key to the work that we do,” said Heart of England Mencap’s chief executive, Helena Wallis. “There are definitely a huge number of myths surrounding the role; people imagine it is a confined routine of being indoors and providing nothing but personal care, but that is just not the case.

“We want people to support our customers in living their daily lives as independently as possible, yes helping them at home with cleaning or cooking if that is what they need, and there may be a need for some level of personal care in some cases, but more than that it’s about building their confidence in going out, in getting into work, into pursuing their interests and building their futures.”

For instance, Joe (pictured, left, with George, who he supports), a young father-of-two from Stratford, was assistant manager at a pub but wanted to find a career that he loved: “My brother worked for Heart of England Mencap and encouraged me to give it a go,” he said.

“At first I didn’t think it would be for me – I believed the care worker stereotype as most people do, but I went for it and I have never looked back.

“The role of a support worker is just that – to provide support, it isn’t all about personal care, it’s about supporting individuals in whatever they want to do, helping to build their confidence and make their own choices.

“Together you set goals – and seeing them achieved is hugely rewarding.”

Other common myths are that care workers work long hours for poor pay, but it is a career that is entirely flexible, full or part-time. And the pay is £20,000 to £30,000 full-time, according to Heart of England Mencap.

“This example just shows the career path care can take you down, and it is one which is too often overlooked,” Wallis added.

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