Beth with her eldest son
Beth – A Support Worker’s Story
Beth is a support worker at Autism at Kingwood. During the first lock-down, Beth had to isolate away from her children to continue her job as a support worker. Beth talks about what attracted her to her role, what are some of the challenges she faces and why she chose to isolate away from her family to continue her support work.
“I’ve worked in community care for a long time and I wanted to go into an area that was close to my heart, which was autism because both my children are on the spectrum. I’ve got 13 years under my belt with autism, so when I came across Autism at Kingwood I felt like this was a calling for me and the job role itself felt natural. I love coming in, I love being able to work with the people we support and my team. Everyone is welcoming, everyone is heard. Each day is different, and I’ve learnt a lot more about myself and autism in general since being with Kingwood. It’s expanded my knowledge and experience as well.
I think the most challenging thing about my job is understanding certain behaviours of the people we support. We get the baseline on understanding in training, but sometimes there are situations you don’t face until you’ve been in the job a couple of years down the line. So you have to change the way that you work with the person and adapt on a daily basis to be able to give them a better quality of life. I think having to work out why some behaviours happen and realising that maybe it’s the way that we are working with the person you are supporting, and that we need to adjust that, I find that challenging, but it’s educational as well.
When the first lock-down came along, I had to make a decision about how I would care for and protect my children. I am a single parent and my eldest has autism and a few other conditions which leave him with a weaker immune system. Not working wasn’t an option because financially it wasn’t viable, I couldn’t live off of full benefits, and on top of that, I didn’t want to be out of work for five months; I would have to redo all my training; I would lose relationships with the people we support, which are important; and I would have felt that I was letting my team down as well.
My mum has been a really big role in my life for quite a long time when it comes to my kids, being that I’m a single parent, so after speaking to my parents, I realised that for me to be able to continue to do my role and to protect my children and my dad, who has diabetes, my kids would need to move in with my parents so that I could still work.
That was really hard because, when the lockdown first happened, it fell on the weekend of my birthday and I had taken three days off work and had all these plans with the kids, and the kids were excited, but then I spent the day alone. I did go over to my parents and my kids sang happy birthday through the front window and left the cake on the doorstep, but it was really hard because I’ve spent 13 years as a mum, my life revolving around my kids, and then one day literally everything’s just taken away, because my job’s important and I couldn’t just leave the people we support and our staff in the lurch.
Although the wage at Autism at Kingwood wage is decent for health care, what we do on a daily basis is intricate. We basically have people’s lives in our hands and for just over eighteen thousand a year, that’s not enough. That’s not enough for the responsibilities that we have and the hours that we put in. It’s kind of soul destroying. We’re highly trained. A lot of us here have not just come out of school. I’ve got a degree in psychology, I’ve got an NVQ in Health and Social Care. I’ve got a lot of experience behind me. The role itself is what attracted me to the job, and whilst the wage at Autism at Kingwood is good for health and social care, it’s not enough. I still don’t really have much spending money for myself. I can still struggle on a monthly basis and I sit down and think, I put in 50 hours a week and I get the wage of someone that’s doing 25 to 30 hours a week.
Health care workers in general during the pandemic were literally the backbone of the UK during the lockdowns. We don’t get to socially distance, we don’t get to protect ourselves like other people are able to when they work from home. We’re putting ourselves in situations where we could contract a deadly virus and I love my job, but we really shouldn’t be having to still struggle financially on a daily basis. It’s not fair.”