What makes a good support worker

Top 5 suggestions

As per a recent federal government report, disability services is one of the fastest growing industries in Australia and may account for 90,000 new jobs in the coming years.

As a disability support worker, you can be in great demand for your skills and also make a positive contribution to the lives of so many people.

Here are 5 qualities that every good support worker must possess:

1. A support worker must be able to step back and allow the person they support to be independent

Pro tip: Stand behind the person you support, to encourage people in the community to speak directly to the person you’re supporting.

Sometimes a support worker doesn’t realise that they could be the barrier to inclusion themselves! This situation may arise when support workers feels like they aren’t doing their job well, if they stand back and allow the person they are supporting, to communicate and interact directly in the community. Well, that’s really the aim isn’t it! It’s important that a support worker realises that one of their responsibilities includes facilitating a person’s independence, and that can sometimes mean stepping back and letting the other person take over.

2. A support worker should encourage people to speak to the person they are supporting

Pro tip: Try politely saying “Please ask [person’s name]. They will let you know what they want”, or “[Person’s name] understands everything you said, please just wait while she types her response”.

A good support worker should also know when to come forward and let people in the community know that it’s alright to communicate directly with the person they support, especially if they might have communication difficulties. People can sometimes hesitate to speak directly to a person with communication disabilities for fear of causing any offence. But a good support worker is in a position where he can educate people in the community of equal opportunity and rights. Another important benefit of this action is that this also empowers the person being supported and makes them feel independent and much more confident about themselves.

3. A support worker should use augmentative and alternative communication aids

Pro tip: An individual or a support worker can apply for a non-electronic communication resource through the NECAS Scheme.

Understand that there are different ways to communicate. Verbal communication isn’t the only way for a person to express their opinion. Any individual or support worker can apply for communication resources which are free for those who are eligible. Support workers should explore the use of community request cards and visual schedules to promote independence for people with communication difficulties. Visit www.scopeaust.org.au/contact-scope or call us on 1300 4 72673 to learn about different tools that are available to help a person communicate. 

4. A support worker should never make assumptions about a person’s ability

It’s important that a support worker never assumes a person can’t do something, or does something for the person, thinking it will ‘just be easier’ that way. There’s definitely an art to support working, and you will learn that each person will like to be supported in their own way. If you’re not sure, ask! It’s the best way to know if you’re doing a good job, or if a person would like you to do something different.  

5. And finally, a good support worker should think outside the box 

Pro tip: If what the person wants to do seems like a challenge, try writing small, achievable goals that you and the person you support can achieve over time.

Essentially your role as a support worker is to enable that person to achieve their goal. It means to do things that other people think they can’t do (sometimes yourself included). It’s important to therefore think outside the box. Have an open mind! A positive can-do attitude goes a long way. Whether it’s supporting a person to ride in a hot air balloon, to join a new club, or even independently order their own food at a restaurant, focus on the goal and work on the barrier. Your role is to support that person to do what they want and make it happen. 

Being a disability support worker is an important role in the community. You can enable a person to do things they never imagined. You can positively impact that person’s life to be more confident, independent, empowered and included in society. How great is that?