Have you ever wanted to make a huge difference in the lives of vulnerable adults living in Somerset? Then a career in social care could be for you.

Discovery was formed in 2017 in a partnership between Dimensions and Somerset County Council, as a not-for-profit provider of support for autistic
adults and people with learning disabilities in Somerset.

The Dimensions Group is currently ranked amongst the UK Best Workplaces for Well-being, and Discovery is looking to recruit new support workers to give vulnerable adults the help and support they deserve.

We’ve been speaking to a few existing support workers about what they do and how they got into care in the first place:

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made”

Brett Hayter spent more than a decade working in the leisure industry, becoming a senior operations manager by the time the coronavirus pandemic took hold.

With leisure facilities unable to open, the 28-year-old Yeovil resident was made redundant and placed onto a casual contract, making the amount of hours he would work each week deeply unpredictable.

With a wedding on the way, Brett applied for full-time work, but wanted to stay away from retail given his previous experiences as a teenager.

He then applied for Discovery, and now works for them as a support worker, helping individuals get the very most out of their lives.

He said: “It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I love it. I wish I had done it five years sooner.”

Brett’s support allow individuals to stay active and engage with their local community, with support workers being matched to individuals who share their interests – including, in Brett’s case, long walks and the Euros.

Working in a supported living setting, no two days are the same, and none of it really feels like work to Brett.

Not only does he not wear a uniform, he likens the role to going to a friend’s house for the day, or even a home away from home.

He added: “I can’t talk more positively about the job.”

“I know that I am making a profound difference to people’s lives”

Maddy started working for Discovery in September 2021, having previously only worked at Pizza Hut while she was in sixth form.

Somerset County Gazette: Maddy, left, a Frome-based support worker from Discovery. CREDIT: Discovery. Maddy, left, a Frome-based support worker from Discovery. CREDIT: Discovery.

The support worker, who lives in Frome, said her previous experience helped her to work collaboratively with other people.

She said: “I have so much more job satisfaction as a support worker for Discovery because I know that I am making a profound difference to people’s lives.

“I have been exposed to the health and social care sector for my whole life – my mum is a physiotherapist, my granddad is a doctor, and I studied health and social care at sixth form.

“But even with all that background going into my support work job, I still did not know what to expect. However, despite my initial nervousness, I was welcomed with open arms.”

Maddy was given the opportunity when she joined Discovery to shadow senior colleagues to learn new skills and build up her confidence – with her manager also taking a keen interest in her mental health and well-being.

She said: “Our team is very close, and I have been amazed by the understanding, awareness, and ability to be vulnerable and open about myself that has come with working in the health and social care sector.

“Another thing which Discovery does for new joiners is to provide a one-page profile of all the people we support, along with our colleagues. The profiles are a great tool that make it much easier to engage with individuals we support from the get-go.

“Then, instead of getting side-tracked by our differences, we can strengthen our connection by focusing on the things we have in common. For example, a few of the people I support adore 1980s music – I’ve loved listening to it and learning all about it recently!”

Maddy is currently carrying out her medication training, after which she will be looking to specialise as a mental health first aider.

She said: “I am so much less stressed now than I was in my previous job, despite having far more responsibility.

“I’m usually full of the sheer joy that comes from supporting people to do what they want to do, whether that is simply getting dressed in the morning or playing ‘Cider Drinker’ by The Wurzels on full volume.

“No two days are the same, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“Just go for it”

Jude Smallridge, who is based in Cheddar, works with Somerset County Council to provide support for people with learning disabilities and autism.

After working in various administrative roles for 40 years, she switched to social care as a result of the pandemic, believing the sector “offers genuine opportunities to make a real difference to people’s lives.”

She said: “I love the constant job satisfaction that comes with making a daily difference to people’s lives.

“Hearing those individuals say, ‘Thank you for helping me’, or ‘Are you in again tomorrow?”, is more satisfying than meeting any kind of corporate targets.”

Support workers build strong relationships with the people they support – with Jude excelling in a role in which she never expected she would thrive.

She said: “If someone has the right values and a strong desire to help people, then a career in support work could be for them.

“With the right support systems in place, it really can provide the career development opportunities that many people probably do not expect of a job in social care.

“My advice to those considering a career in support work, in short, is just to go for it. It is the best decision I’ve ever made.”

For more information on the work that Discovery does to support people in Somerset, visit www.discovery-uk.org/discovery-careers.