What makes a great support worker? – a guest blog by Leanne Thomas
What makes a great support worker and other Frequently Asked Questions
Leanne Thomas is an Operations Manager who joined Green Light as a Support Worker on one of Green Light’s first inductions in 2011. Working in a young growing company provided Leanne with the opportunity to gain valuable experience of working with teams to create quality services for people with learning disabilities and autism, something she has been passionate about for many years. In this guest blog Leanne shares some of her insights and replies to some frequently asked questions she’s heard from those who are considering joining Green Light.
Q: What kind of person makes a great support worker?
I have worked with and learned from so many people over the years it is hard to pinpoint exactly. However, I would say the best support workers I’ve worked with personally, have always been people who are naturally kind, caring and empowering. They have always put the person first. Always treating the person with the dignity and respect they deserve. Great support workers are excellent problem-solvers too. They are the kind of people who enjoy seeing others get over hurdles to succeed in life. They tend to be patient and nurturing too, able to see that progress looks different for each person; sometimes it happens all at once, at other times you barely notice it happening.
Q: Who does Green Light support?
Our teams currently support about 45 adults with learning disabilities or autism. Each person either has their own home, a self-contained apartment within a home, or lives in a small home, shared with no more than three other people. Our homes tend to be small but with lots of space for the person and their team. We are also planning to support people in their own homes, or in the transition to their own home. More news on this to follow…
Q: What level of support do people have?
The levels of support people have varies depending on their needs. The majority of people we support have 1:1 support. Some may have higher levels of support for specific needs. Others who are able to live independently may have less than 1:1 support but may have support with specific areas of need. This is all assessed carefully by our managers before a service is offered to make sure 1) we are confident we can safely meet the person’s needs, and 2) that our service has all the right ingredients in place for that individual to thrive with our support.
Q: Why are you recruiting all the time?
There is a nationwide shortage of accommodation and support services for people with learning disabilities and autism. This means there is huge demand for existing services and for new services to be created by companies like ours. We will therefore be recruiting for two reasons 1) any openings that exist in our current teams and 2) to build capacity to provide new services for people who may be waiting for these in the months ahead. At any given time, our team will be aware of around 10 – 15 people, locally and further afield, who are in need of services like ours, some urgently so. Our ability to respond in these situations hinges on our ability to invest in the development of new services. Finding the right property. Recruiting the right team. Providing the right systems, support and training. This all takes careful orchestration, particularly if you are committed to maintaining high standards, as we are, in these key areas. Green Light has not grown over the last two years, as we have focused on the support and stability of our existing services during the pandemic. Where we have had some capacity created by people moving on, this has been offered to people we already support, who we have recognised might benefit from a change. We have always grown to meet demand, and create opportunities where we can do so, but always in a way that does not compromise quality, which we really value.
Q: Why should we choose to work with Green Light over other employers?
Green Light is quite narrowly focused in terms of the client group it supports. So we are the perfect employer for those who would like to work with adults with learning disabilities
or autism. Other care providers may offer experience of supporting people with different needs, abilities or ages. Some people prefer to work with children, or the elderly, others might prefer to work in services for people with mental health needs. It depends which way you want to take your career. You can find out which population care providers serve by looking at the Care Quality Commission website This gives details of the type of service provided, to whom, and will share the views and experiences of people who use, or work in the service, or have some professional experience of it. You can also see which providers are in the area you live in.
Q: What is a typical day like for a Green Light Support Worker?
A: Every day presents different challenges, opportunities and rewards, reflecting the individuality, strengths and needs of the people you are supporting. The support we provide is very much led by the person and what they wish or need to do each day. We try to get a good balance between ‘work’ ‘rest’ and ‘play’ as we do in our own lives. As much as possible, we aim to empower people to do as much as possible for themselves, even if this means things might take a little longer to achieve! Our mission is all about empowering people to build skills that will ultimately lead to greater independence and a good quality of life.
Although we try to use public transport as much as possible, every team has access to a vehicle, so people can get to and from any activities they have planned. Being a driver helps, but we welcome applications from non-drivers, or those learning to drive too.
We encourage people to eat and socialise together during meals, as they would in any ordinary home, so meals and refreshments are provided for team members supporting people to facilitate this.
Q: Where are your homes?
A: We now have teams in homes from Helston in the West of the County, right across to Foxhole, near St. Austell in the East, and homes in most towns between. You can see the exact location of each of our homes on our Google Map. We have two new locations in the pipeline in Goonhavern, between Newquay and Truro. We have another location under development in a beachside location in Newquay. Some new properties are being developed with specific people in mind. Relationships built up over several years can help us tailor things to people’s needs. Our homes tend to be clustered together, as we have found this helps foster social connections and friendships between people, and helps create supportive relationships between teams.
Q: What training is given before I start to support people?
We provide a comprehensive induction program for all staff, even those who may have been well-trained elsewhere. This covers our vision, mission and ethos, all mandatory training and some additional training we like our team members to have to prepare them for their role. The training usually happens at our office in Newquay, and is a good opportunity to meet other people who have also decided to join us. We try to introduce people to their new managers and people we support. We include some time for you to have an induction in the specific home you will be based in before your company induction ends.
Q: How are team members allocated to particular teams?
Although we are all employed by Green Light as a company, team members are assigned to particular teams, or homes, as a regular workplace. Each team is led by a Registered Manager, who will be your main source of supervision, coaching and support. We try to allocate you to a home that is within half an hours drive of where people live. However, sometimes people’s strengths and skills might also play a part in which team they are allocated to. For example, if someone has a personal interest in tennis, and someone we support is trying to build their tennis skills this might factor into plans.
Q: Is Green Light a Foundation Living Wage Employer?
We are applying for Foundation Real Living Wage Accreditation Status so that people can see that we pay in excess of the statutory rates (National Minimum Wage/National Living Wage) and are already in excess of the higher Foundation Real Living Wage rate that companies are able to voluntarily sign up to. *More info at livingwage.org.uk/what-real-living-wage
Q: What holiday will I be able to take?
Green Light’s holiday entitlement is the equivalent of 33 days annual leave a year, in excess of the statutory 28 days, as we feel it’s important for our team members to be able to relax, recharge and spend quality time with their families.
Q: What are the shift patterns like?
Contracted hours are spread over the course of the week with a share of day and evening shifts and alternate weekends shifts. An enhancement of £2.00 per hour is paid for any weekend shifts undertaken. Registered Managers create a ‘rolling rota’ to meet the 24/7 support needs of the people the team supports, and so that everyone has a fair share of the shifts, including any sleep-in shifts available. Sleep in shifts are often tagged onto an evening shift that is followed by a day shift the following day. With rolling rotas the pattern can be predicted, so everyone can plan ahead and see what cover may be needed for training, holidays and other leave. Some teams have organised shift patterns to create four day working patterns. Sleep-in duties are available once the registered manager is satisfied you are inducted, trained and competent for this responsibility.
Q: What management support is in place for Support Workers?
Green Light provides high-levels of management support, with a registered manager and deputy manager in each home. In some companies management support can be spread too thinly, but we have always tried to make sure our teams have high levels, as we feel this is really important. This means managers can induct, coach, supervise and support members of their team and provide any guidance that might be needed. Our managers tend to be very ‘hands on’, leading from the front. On top of this, Green Light’s management team has a 24/7 on-call system which employees can use for advice, support and guidance.
Q: What support will my manager have?
Green Light’s management team has strong professional relationships with one another. Many have worked together for many years now so provide lots of support to one another. As we have grown we have invested in the kind of talent and support we know Registered Managers need. Operations Managers with hands-on experience of being a Green Light Registered Manager provide direct line management support, coaching and supervision. Quality Assurance, Human Resources, Recruitment and Training, Property, Finance and Administration support is all accessible to Green Light registered managers. Registered Managers work closely with Green Light’s Positive Behaviour Support team of behaviour analysts who support the manager to understand the function of any challenging behaviour, and devise strategies needed to reduce this. The PBS team are also supporting managers to develop team approaches that help people build their functional or independent living skills.
Q: What opportunities are there for progression?
Most of our managers, operations managers like myself, and my PBS team colleagues started their careers directly supporting people, as support workers or similar roles. Some of our senior team were on our very first induction in 2010. Others we have worked with along the way have built on their experience with Green Light, to further their careers in other parts of the Health and Social Care sector. Some have used their experience to become Occupational Therapists, Nurses, Social Workers, Clinical Psychologists for example. The opportunities are there for anyone wishing to make a career with Green Light, or in the Health and Social Care Sector generally. Although our sector tends to suffer from negative press, most people would agree that we provide valuable, much-needed services, and that demand for what we do is only ever going to increase, and that future governments will need to invest and support what we are doing. The Health and Social Care sector is one of the few remaining that is unlikely to see people being replaced by technology.
Green Light is committed to investing in and improving the knowledge and skills of our current and future workforce, for the benefit of the people Green Light supports today and for the people we know will need our service in the future. We are interested in what care for people with learning disabilities will look like in future. During the pandemic, our team has been researching, developing and trialling an innovative suite of training to build on the skills that great support workers have, so they have the knowledge and skills needed for a new role. This will create opportunities for progression for the people we support, as well as the people supporting them. We will be making further announcements on this in the weeks ahead.
Q: How do I apply or find out more about working with Green Light?
Thank you for reading, we look forward to hearing from you!