I joined as a complete novice: I had never done this type of work before and, I must say, it’s the best choice I have ever made.
I am an older lady (61) and have had a variety of jobs in the past, such as working in a Bingo Hall as a cashier in charge of prize bingo; in the City Hospital as a domestic; in a primary school as a dinner lady (I wore many different hats in that role!); and in a cafe.
I am a single parent with two grown-up sons. When my sons were at High School, I was a volunteer for Home Start West Lothian, where I was matched with a family with three children and one of them had autism. I supported them on a voluntary basis twice a week for three years and am still in contact with them. When I stopped supporting the Mum, due to the children starting school, she went on to be a volunteer herself.
I didn't have a lot of experience in this type of work, but I think life gives you the experiences that can help.
I have gained a lot from working for with YOU. Even as an older person, I didn’t have a lot of confidence at the start, which I feel I have now. The rewards of working with various people with different needs are very good. Everybody if different and it’s important to remember that.
The people we support have a range of reasons why we support them, from mental health to learning disabilities. The majority of the people we support live independently in their own homes, and we support them there. It could be for a range of help, such as shopping, taking them to appointments, going on outings, assisting them in their house and even giving them emotional support – a listening ear and empathy can go a long way.
It's a very rewarding job, though at times it can be a little draining, but you have to take the good with the bad.
It’s also important to have a thick skin and not let your emotions take over. It could be too easy to take remarks to heart when comments are made innocently.
I have gained some qualifications along the way which I have enjoyed, and they have also made me think. I have a few relatives with mental health problems and have been enlightened with what I have learnt.
I have found the Midlothian team to be good to work with. We all try and be supportive to each other, which is good.
The past two years has been very tough for the staff and the people we support, and hopefully we are at a turning point.
Support work is very rewarding and, if you can put a smile on someone’s face, or feel you have made a difference, then it’s worth it.