Darryl, joined Discovery as floating support worker, six months before this interview, meaning he covered in homes that were short staffed, but after coming across a supported living home in Bridgwater he didn’t want to leave. But, what lead him here in the first place?
The call to be a support worker:
I’ve worked in care for 23 years. I used to work with sexually abused children and children that were the offender. It was what they’ve learned and seen. After three years, I burnt out. So I started thinking about going entirely to the other end of the scale. I wanted to see if I could do something for someone who’s only got a last few weeks or months left, making them as comfortable as possible.
So I became a family support worker for the NHS looking after children in palliative care. When they were discharged from hospital I’d take the equipment round, turn their bedroom into a ward and look after them until they passed. I was all over Somerset, so I’m used to being here, there and everywhere.
Why did you leave the NHS?
I worked non-stop through the pandemic, and that was hard. A lot of my patients had tracheostomies and were struggling. It was so risky. I worked right through, never had a day off, and was getting burnt out, so I asked for a week’s holiday, and it got declined.
Emotionally, I was carrying a lot and when I asked for a week off, it got refused because all the people that had been shielding had to use their holiday hours. That was it. I thought I was done with working in care. I live near Hinckley Point, everyone is working there for good money, it’s on my doorstep and that’s where I was going. But then I saw an advert for Discovery, my imagination started up, and here I am!
What drew you to Discovery?
I’ve never done it for money because you don’t. I could clean the toilets at Hinckley point for more than any care organization pays. It’s something inside that twigs an interest inside you, and you end up wondering what could be possible. How much difference you could make in someone’s life.
It’s not just a job.
I like to keep interested. I liked starting as a floating support worker because it meant I could see lots of different people and ways of working without committing to one straight away (and to crush a myth: yes, you’re paid for driving time.) When I went to the house I work at now I was impressed, it’s a fantastic place to work.
So when the manager asked if I would like to stay, I asked if I could do some sleep-ins and overtime to cover the shortfall, and the answer was yes! It all just fell into place, and my wife told me to do what I felt was right, and it feels so right, so that’s what I did. And guess what?
I just got promoted to lead support worker! Since I’ve been working for Discovery, everything has come a hundred miles an hour!
What’s important to you at work?
A great manager. Where I work now, the manager is young, forward-thinking, and she allows you to challenge old practices. If you present an idea to her, she lets you run with it, which builds confidence. She also put me on the meaningful engagement course, speaking out about why we want to change things, and how to do it.
Off the back of that course, I wrote a blog about a chap I support.
He’s lovely and so amazing to work with, but historically people had heard bad things about him before they met him. So after doing the course I decided I wanted to take this person to a football match, which we did two weeks ago, and he’s been to the pub too! People wouldn’t do this because he can get upset, bounce in his wheelchair, and crash into things.
But all he is doing is asking for something, and you have to work out what it is instead of saying he’s “challenging”. It’s not acceptable to label someone challenging when all they are trying to do is ask for something. I like to ask why? There is always a reason. Reputation is not reality.
Now, it’s snowballed! We are going to see shows, tribute bands, football and rugby, to name a few. Some of the people we support love animals so they went to the zoo yesterday.
Question your practice, because only then, can you change it.
What would you say to others thinking about jobs and careers?
I’ve only been here months, but I can see the opportunities that Discovery offers. If you have an interest in people, we’ll help you make a career at Discovery.
You don’t do it for the money. You do it because some things are more important. We could be better-paid but miserable, and I choose happiness over money. Money can make you happy, but only because it gives you choice. And if you’re stuck at a full-time job where you don’t have any choices, that’s not much of a life.
A career with Discovery gives you so much choice, growth, connection and opportunities to broaden your skills. No day is ever the same. – Darryl Richards.
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