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Jean’s journey at West House as Lead Support Worker

We recently caught up with Jean Ward to find out a bit more about her role as one of our Lead Support Workers at West House.

How long have you worked for West House and what were your reasons for applying? 

I have worked for West House for 17 years since November 1st, 2006. 

I applied to West House because I had previous care experience and wanted to try something different. 

What was your previous profession before starting your role with West House? 

Before working at West House, I was working with two individuals in their own homes as I was asked by their family to care for them. This was my first experience in care; however, it was personal rather than with a company.

Before any care experience, I have worked in a variety of food industries including bakeries, cafés, and cooking in pub kitchens. Until I was approached by someone I know, who asked if I could care for one of their family members. And another person who was a friend, asked for me to care for their daughter. This is when my passion for care started, and I knew it was what I wanted to do. You don’t know how much you will enjoy something until you try it. 

I started as a Support Worker on bank, after 2 years on bank I changed to contract, running the Friday group in community activities. I was a mentor, and have done all kinds of training through the years, as a mentor to people. Last year, I decided to go for the role of Lead Support Worker.

I have never wanted to be senior but wanted a bit more responsibility, so Lead Support Worker is a great in between.

What does your role entail? 

As a Lead Support Worker, you are the bridge between support workers and management. You are there to support and offer advice where necessary. People come to me with questions all of the time, I try my best to use my advice and knowledge to give them an answer they need. I spend one day in the office, and the rest on shift with the rest of my team assisting with managing community activities.

Tell us about community activities

This element involves supporting the team in a group setting, organising activities for people, organising holidays, and ensuring the people we support get the most out of their programme, while making senior decisions on behalf of the management team when they’re not present.

We have created dedicated programmes following specific demand from the people we support, from a choir to drama group, and I am part of both. We also have a special activities group on a Friday which I have been involved with for the past 17+ years, offering everything from swimming days to bar meals, visits to Muncaster castle, farm parks, pool and snooker games. In the summer, we might play games in the park or visit the harbours, and in the winter we have done Christmas shopping days at the Metro Centre. All sorts!

Why do you love working at West House?

I have always loved working at West House ever since I started and in all of my roles. I always say ‘if you having a bad day come to work and it will make it better’. The West House team are a big family, and we act like one. We are very close, have a laugh, and all get along and work together, it’s great. 

A lot of the people we support, I have known for a long time. We’ve almost grown up together, and my journey is their journey.

What skills have you received or learnt within your role? 

I have become more patient, learning computer skills with a computer course and dedicated office days. I have learned how to do things I never felt would be possible. You learn your skills by doing the tasks and improving, completing the rota and care plans on the computer, for example. I am a lot more understanding when team members come to me with their problems, which has led to overall improved communication and team building skills with everyone. I have learned to gain people’s respect, knowing when to say no, but also being there for them and having good relationships.

What qualifications/training have you received since starting your role with West House?

Loads! I have completed qualifications, mandatory training, and Careskills training and Level 3 in Childcare. I have mentor training, first aid, all of the mandatory training. In West House, you are always learning, supporting, and developing teams’ courses, there is always something to learn. Every single day, you are learning something new, either about job role or the people we support. 

Have there been any big learning curves along the way?  

My biggest challenge was starting as the Lead Support Worker. My computer skills were a massive challenge as I wasn’t very competent, which felt like a big barrier when applying. However, West House have helped me no end to develop my computer skills doing day to day tasks and now I’m a lot more confident.

What are your most memorable moments working for West House?

My most memorable moment happened last year, someone who we support had never been abroad and had very little access to holidays. She always thought they were out of her reach, and she said she would like to come to Benidorm but she had never flown, and she didn’t think she would be able to afford it. We assisted with her finances, got her a passport, took her shopping for holiday clothes and took her to Benidorm! We’re going again this year – anything is possible with the right support system in place.

How would you describe the people we support?

Inspiring, definitely inspiring. They are individual, have a sense of humour, bright, articulate, make my day brighter, If you have a problem, come to work and you will get cuddles and greetings every morning. I love the people we support, they are all individual and inspiring. People class people with learning disabilities as having low abilities but they don’t, they just have different amazing abilities.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I like being the bridge between the support workers and the management, managing rotas and giving advice. I love helping not only the people we support, but also the staff/support workers. I can give advice and help the team on best practice for supporting and getting the most out of your role.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of applying for a Support Worker role? 

To be a Support Worker, getting to know the people you support properly is so important. Take positive advice/input on board from other members of staff, but make your own mind up about negative things. Be open and respectful, and have a bit of fun! 

To be a Lead Support Worker, it’s so important to be visible/open/approachable! For people to come to you, you must respect confidentiality, be adventurous and be able to step outside your comfort zone. Be adaptable to learning new skills, as with West House you are always learning.

 What are your hopes for the future? 

I am happy in my current role, but I have hopes for the future to build my knowledge and expand my role and continue to progress within West House.

If you would like to find out more about joining West House as a Support Worker or Lead Support Worker, take a look at our Careers page.