Tahira is a Support Worker based in Leeds. She joined Affinity Trust in 2015.
What is outreach support and why is it important?
An outreach support worker is somebody that goes into someone’s home to provide them with support. Every person is different and everyone has different support needs. We can’t finish one shift and go to the next one thinking we can treat that person just like the previous one.
Some of the people I support for just two hours (this is the shortest), and with others it can be three, four or five hours, and the longest is seven hours. Having previously worked in a 9-5 role, I can honestly say that it just wasn’t for me. I love that no two days are the same now and enjoy the travel and flexibility that the role brings.
The outreach service at Affinity Trust is vital for the people we support and their health and wellbeing. Some of the people we support are very vulnerable and often lonely. With our support, I have seen them grow in confidence, improve in their communication skills and learn more about themselves as they visit new places and experience new things.
What qualities make someone an effective outreach support worker?
I would say sensitivity, compassion, empathy, understanding and patience as well as excellent listening skills. Relationship building or “working friendships”, as I like to call it, are key. It is about not judging, being sensitive, working within their situation, and not being confined by a black-and- white support plan. You need to have compassion and empathy as to the struggles others may have in their lives.
What advice would you give to others considering becoming an outreach Support Worker?
You need to have patience and you need to want to do the role, not just be in it for money. I laugh in saying this as it sounds big-headed but I have never had a client say, ‘I don’t want Tahira to come back and work with me’, which is lovely. The role can fit in around your life but you need to be flexible and you need to be able to build relationships and be understanding.
Would you consider working anywhere else?
I would not swap my role for anything now! I used to work as a personal adviser before. The money was good but I wasn’t being fulfilled day-to-day. Friends and family have asked me when I’m going to get a job that uses my psychology degree, but I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else now. The hours can be long at times but the work is still so flexible. If I have an appointment I just speak to my manager and we work around it. That flexibility goes two ways of course but it’s great and allows me to plan ahead and have a work-life balance.