When architect David Spencer found himself out of a job, an email from his local council calling for more carers caught his attention. He began work with Livability, caring for adults with disabilities at our St Ronan’s Road home. We ask David about his experience of working in a sector completely new to him and his thoughts on rating ‘skilled workers’.
I wanted to do something that made a contribution to society. It was kind of ‘Tesco’s or care home’ and I knew I would be temperamentally more suited to caring.
Not really, I’d trained with St John’s Ambulance 20 years ago and muscle memory kicked in with things like manual handling.
I shadowed another member of staff for two weeks, not doing the work but watching and absorbing what it is to be a carer. I also did some online training. I’d stated from the start that this would be a temporary job for me, and I was really impressed with this huge investment Livability made in my training. I felt very valued in my work. I’m dyslexic and I was concerned about writing up notes, my spelling, etc but I felt supported. When I started work, I was impressed by how well everything was set up to care for people, and that absolutely everything I’d learned in training was actually carried out in practice, if not more so. I really liked my job title – ‘enabling support worker’.
Five adults with a wide range of disabilities, including intellectual disabilities, deafness, blindness, dementia and varying speech abilities.
Using the ‘softer’ skills; of reading body language of those who have no words, understanding how little things provide reassurance and confidence to people who can’t see and hear, entering the world of someone with dementia to help them where they are. So touch can reassure someone, or recognising the different tone someone might use verbally, even if not with words. There are times when care is a bit dull, other times dirty, but always a privilege to enable and support those people. I loved cooking for everyone – only did that a few times but it was brilliant.
It’s hugely, hugely skilled if you’re good at it. Care isn’t easy – it’s about imagining the place where someone else is. But they’re skills that can’t be commonly taught and are hard to quantify, unlike architecture, which I studied for ten years. For me, my care role was also about expressing God’s love for the people I cared for – I think the famous passage about love in 1 Corinthians actually sums up what good care is.
Being much more aware of non-verbal communication – body language, facial expressions. And I’m trying to bring those skills of loving and enabling more into family life with my wife and children.