Sunday the 20th of December marked a big change in my working life, and quite possibly, my personal life. Yesterday afternoon was my last working shift of doing a job I never really thought I was capable of doing. Three and a half years later and I’ve proved myself wrong. During my time of working with people who have severe learning disabilities, I’ve learnt a lot about myself and even more about a small proportion of the general public regarding their attitudes towards the people I have supported.
It’s been a huge learning curve for me personally. Along the way I’ve met some fantastic people and made lifelong friends, which is something I can take away with me and keep with me for the remainder of my life. Last night I supported the gentlemen by administering their medication and tucking most of them up into bed. My last words to each of them was “Sleep well, Santa will soon be here” before I closed their bedroom doors. In effect I was closing a memorable chapter in my life. I’ll miss them.
In the coming weeks, I intend to write a blog about the ‘Reality’ of life as a support/care worker, but more importantly, the life of the people who, through no fault of their own, struggle to be accepted in a world that is supposed to be about inclusivity.
The new job (When I start it) is something I have wanted to do for a number of years for the following reason. When I was at university, I met a chap (Gary) who was academically gifted beyond belief and also had the pain of a hard life imprinted in his eyes. He had lived on the streets for over 10 years in and around Nottingham as a chronic alcohol and drug user. He had been given a hand-up by a person who was employed by Nottingham Council to help those who were desperate for help, so they could get up off their knees and face the world on their own two feet. During his time living on the streets, Gary had witnessed one of his closest friends burn to death at the hands of a group of thugs underneath a bridge in Nottingham. Gary told me he was unable to help his friend because he was physically and mentally incapable due to the amount of alcohol and drugs he had consumed.
The morning after he had helplessly watched his friend die through a drug induced haze, when he eventually regained his composure after a night in the local police station, being asked questions then hopelessly trying to settle, he promised himself he would try to change the course of his life. Not long after that terrible night, Gary was eventually offered a bed in a rehabilitation centre, which he accepted. Whilst he was in the centre, a young man came to talk to Gary, offering him help to get his life on a track that could lead him away from drugs, alcohol abuse and addiction. The young man was an Enablement worker. Gary admitted to me that without the young man’s help and guidance, he would probably have died on the streets like many of his friends.
After 2 years, Gary had beaten his addiction, managed to get a flat in the city centre and found a part time job, all with the help of the enablement worker.
He had gone into adult education to try and get basic math and English qualifications and discovered he was well above the levels he was learning at. 2 years later he had qualified for a place at the university where I was studying. Oddly, he rarely turned up to lectures or seminars but in every test, presentation, essay and exam he was awarded 90% plus.
Gary’s story, specifically the help he had been given, awoke something inside of me and made me want to do that type of work, but the opportunity never arose for me, plus I didn’t really believe I could do it, until recently.
So I’m waiting to start my new job as an enablement worker for Derbyshire County Council. I know deep inside that it will be very different from what I’ve done for the past 3 and a half years, but I think I’m better prepared to take this job on and do it to the very best of my ability.
I feel that working with and supporting people with severe learning disabilities has given me an invaluable experience, something I can hopefully take forward with me in my new job.