Darlene is a Support Worker at a residential home in St Leonard’s on Sea.
Why did you join Affinity Trust?
I joined in 2012, but I’ve been working in social care for most of my career – longer than I’ve been married!
I started as a care assistant when people with learning disabilities were institutionalised. Then I did my NVQ and worked in various roles for different providers. Then I joined Affinity Trust as a support worker – as that’s what I love.
What does your job involve?
I work in St Leonards-on-Sea in Sussex, in a house where we support five people, all of whom communicate through facial expressions and body language.
Every week we have aromatherapy sessions in the house. Some of the guys have college on a Monday, there’s swimming on a Tuesday, and then visits to Rebound trampoline park, so it’s always go.
We are all non-stop in the house, it really doesn’t feel like work and time just flies by.
What do you like most about the role?
To me it’s just so nice to see people so happy. Some days you will go home absolutely knackered but that’s because we do so much and are always on the go. The days just go so quickly.
Sometimes, when people we support have had to spend time in hospital, the doctors say we are better placed to care for them at home, as we know them and have that connection. It’s nice when a medical professional says ‘you tell us’, it’s empowering.
There’s one gentleman we support, who used to be so tense whenever he took a shower. But then we started singing to him and everything changed.
He just loves Frankie Valli. So not only do we sing all the songs to him, but we supported him to go to London to see Jersey Boys. When Sherry Baby came on he just rose up and was so happy. I nearly cried, I was just overjoyed to see this.
How has your work changed over the years?
Before joining Affinity Trust, I remember when I worked in an institution. Then it was a case of load everyone on a bus, have a flask of something hot to drink, and then coming back again. That is no life for people.
What makes Affinity Trust different from other support providers?
It’s having a great team around you, this is really critical. And the managers here are always encouraging us to try new activities. They say, ‘Go for it’.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a support worker?
Try it and see. The sector has moved on so much in all the years I’ve worked in it.