Maddy has so much to give, but it’s difficult for her when the spotlight is on.
So let’s start by thanking Maddy for putting herself out of her comfort zone by talking to us today, and get ready to witness a vulnerable, raw, heartfelt and courageous conversation.
You get so much from another human regardless of if they have a learning disability or not.
” I started my working life at Pizza Hut when I was in the sixth form, then in September I started working for Discovery, and I can’t tell you how different I feel about my work now.
As much as it was fun working at Pizza Hut and an excellent introduction to working with people, I have so much more job satisfaction as a support worker for Discovery. It carries more for me because it’s making a profound difference in people’s lives.
Hospitality makes a difference, too. You have to consider the way people feel, especially when you come into contact with all sorts of people front of house. You have to meet people on a level, find out what they need and want, and fast. In that way, it’s similar.
I’m a nervous person, but also a people person, and I love to learn new things.
I studied health and social care in the sixth form, which was quite an eye-opener. My mum’s a physio, and my granddad’s a doctor, so I’ve grown up around the health and social care sector. But even having that background going in to support work, I had no idea what to expect.
My mum was also previous support worker. She explained it as doing things like going to the cinema and supporting meals etc. She never touched medication OR finances, but times are changing.
I was pleasantly surprised when I started.
Some support workers have been there for many years, 20 years +. You see how much time and energy they put into the people they support. They know what things will help them if they’re stressed or if something’s gone wrong that day; they know what to do straight away.
It’s awe-inspiring. It hits my heart and my soul when I see that.
When I started, I was shadowing a lady called Dawn. The whole time I was in complete awe of her because she’s so on it and capable. She knows there are 101 things to do, and it’s all listed in her head! She’s so organised like that. Being new and having that sort of role model was like, wow, I want to be like that!
I think the level of responsibility that support workers have now is terrific.
I like that we have to shadow in Discovery. It boosts my confidence. I’m not shadowing now, but I still feel like I can go to her if I need something.
It’s great that I can go to this person and get this real-world experience from her.
She made a real difference for me. I was off for a couple of months over Christmas. Coming back was fantastic. To see her, the people we support and all the staff.
We are people of all ages from all backgrounds and manner of experiences. But together, we work well.
We had a team meeting a board member came to. I told her how supportive and kind our team is.
Everyone is so kind to one another. Always offering to make each other cups of tea and saying, how can I help you? How can I support you? Having a team that supports one another makes it a safe place to be.
There are days when I feel overwhelmed and get met with, “It’s okay, you’re okay, let’s go outside, have a hug.” So reassuring and sweet.
It’s the sort of team where we build one another up. And it’s been so wonderful to come to that.
We are such a close team because when you are a support worker, you work with people so much more closely than you do in other jobs.
Because of that, all the people I work with have that understanding and awareness. They know about vulnerability. They know what people need support with and how to do it. They are automatically supportive, kind, caring, beautiful people.
I feel like I could talk about them for ages because I’m just so happy.
I’ve always wanted to support people in one way or another. So I’m very interested in the mental health side, the psychological aspect of things, seeing how things affect people, both in their brains and body.
I think mental health has a lot more traction nowadays. And in Discovery, it’s very much accepted. When I started, my manager was terrific. Keinan was so understanding. I told him I’d had my struggles. I tried to be upfront because I like to be open and honest, but I didn’t want him to think I was incapable.
Keinan was more than understanding and asked me what he could do to support me.
It was a big release. A weight off my shoulders because I thought, oh, no, I’m going to have to tell my manager. It will have a knock-on effect because there is still a relatively common stigma around mental health.
But the management with it was excellent, always listening in confidence and putting things in place where I feel safe. I feel stronger knowing I’m so supported.
Once I have done my meds training I will become a Mental Health First Aider. It’s so important to consider the psychological aspect. It’s heartbreaking that many of the people we support have been victims of abuse, which is another element of the job. I have so much empathy for these people. To know that someone could harm them breaks my heart. It just makes me want to put more effort into supporting them and allowing them to live a life of quality.
In general, I think adults with learning disabilities don’t get interacted with much by the local community because people don’t always know how to act around them.
I think people don’t want to offend and don’t want to do something wrong, so don’t do anything.
I can see and understand that. I have visible scars on my body. People see them and don’t know where to look or what to say because they don’t want to upset or offend me.
The people we support experience similar things, people, are just a little unsure, and I don’t know what to do about that. Still, I’m thinking about it a lot. I have a notepad, and I keep ideas about what can we do to improve the community interaction for the people we support.
Education is needed; they are just people. We are all people. We’re all born in these bodies. Our bodies are our temples, and we are all unique.
Each person is unique, and they all bring so much to the table. I’m learning so much about 80s music at the moment! A few of the people I support love 80s music! I didn’t listen to it much growing up. I’ve grown up with naughties music, but a couple of the ladies love 80s music, and it’s excellent!
There’s always a connection and it’s beautiful.
Instead of focusing on our differences we need to focus on the connection, the things we have in common.
I think there is an outdated vision of care, only yesterday asked what I did and when I told her, her reaction was. “Oh, that’s hard.”
I think any job carries stress levels with it. Still, my stress levels at Pizza Hut were out of this world compared to how they are in Discovery, even though I have far more responsibilities.
Sure, there is always personal care, and that’s one thing that won’t change with the times, but the way I’ve always viewed it is that if that was my body, my parents’ body, my siblings’ body, or my child’s body, how would I want someone to treat it?
I can’t put it into words the sheer joy you feel when someone you support smiles at you.
The number of times I’ve almost cried because I’m able to give them that bit of dignity. In those more personal moments when you’re providing personal care.
Someone said they feel embarrassed when they have accidents, so I always try to make things a bit more positive and say, “well, it just means I get to spend more time chatting to you, don’t I?” and then talk about something else.
Just talk as if you’re doing a normal thing, because it is a normal thing.
You’re supporting them to clean their body, and you would want the same treatment for yourself, so those moments aren’t so bad, even when personal care is there.
I never see it as a chore or as something I don’t like doing because it’s just part of the day.
The same way I get showered and dressed before coming to work, they just need a bit of extra support with it. And there’s no problem with that.
And it’s a lot more than personal care, especially within Discovery. No day is the same.
It’s not breakfast at nine, the same thing for lunch at midday. We have general timings for things, but it’s never the same. It depends on how the people we support are feeling. If they don’t want to go out, then, of course, we would never force them. The day is led by how they feel and what they want.
It’s their house. We’re there to support them with their life. It’s not our life.
On my last shift, a couple of the people we support played “Cider Drinker” by The Worzels very loud! We had the disco light on, and it was great to hear it played all over the house!
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The Dimensions group (which Discovery is a part of) has been officially accredited as one of the UK’s Best Workplaces by the Great Place to Work Institute for two years running. Additionally, this year, we received a “Wellbeing” award and a “Great Workplace for Women” award.