Michael McEwan speaks to Evan Rae about his experiences as a support worker with Sense Scotland.
Evan talks about what motivated him to get into care, the challenging and rewarding parts of working in care, some of the issues that need to be addressed, and the importance of self-directed support.
He provides encouragement and information to those who might be interested or considering a career in care.
MM - Michael McEwan
ER - Evan Rae
MM Okay now on Iriss.fm we're going to be continuing our series on support workers and we are going to be talking to Evan Rae about his work as a support worker. So first off Evan why did you want to get into this kind of work?
ER I think initially it's always something that's been a kind of an interest for me, working with folk who have a learning disability or extra support needs or something. It's always appealed to me but at the time when I found ... it was Sense Scotland, I applied for and I found it on one of these job searches that you get and I was a student at the time and it was advertising as a sort of minimal hours working evenings and weekends which was like (... unclear), that suits me I need some of that. So, I went to the interview and I got that and I started off in the family services part of it which is taking young people out of the house, giving parents a bit of respite, taking them out to whatever they were going to do during the day or at the evenings and then bringing them back at night. And that was how I started off and that, it's always been something I thought of doing essentially.
MM And are you still there?
ER Yeah still there, aye still with Sense Scotland. I'm in a different part of the service, Sense Scotland covers everything like the whole of Scotland so I'm working out of Airdrie now and I work in home support. We've got a staff team that supports one service user, one person, one boy and he's supported in his own house and that's entire support around his living so that's what I do now which is much better and it's working in shifts, etc but I kind of enjoy it a bit more.
MM So how challenging is your job?
ER It's challenging in a number of different ways and I think if you were to work with people with different support needs, etc it can have different challenges throughout the day. For me most of the work I've done is with challenging behaviour so people that get sort of self-harm, will get violent or whatever and will try and break things or try and attack people. Normally you as the support worker so there's different situations that I will have to deal with throughout the week. It probably won't go 3 days without it so it's just ... when you know someone well like I do, I've been working with him now for coming 8 months in December, started kind of April. So, you can kind of tell if he's getting upset or if he's in a bit of pain, in a bit discomfort, somewhere he doesn't really want to be and that's kind of where he's going to escalate then you can just kind of, through experience, say "Do you know what, we don't need to be here." Or "There's something we can do this quicker." Get him in his car quicker and get him to a point and a place where you can just kind of get him to vent and get him to calm himself down then, that's one of the ways of dealing with that.
MM You were saying that you were working with this particular boy for 8 months so do you move about, do you work with different people then?
ER Yeah, well I'm contracted entirely to his team. So, he's got 4 full time contracted staff members, he is supported 163 hours of the day, he gets 2 to one to go out and about so there's 2 shifts. There's the 8 to 8 which comes in at 8 o'clock in the morning and there's the 12 to 11 which incurs a sleepover, so you do a sleepover at his house, you wake up the next morning and do the changeover with whoever comes in on the 8 to 8. So at 12 o'clock, you come in ... at 8 o'clock you come in, you'll have a changeover with the staff, find out what happened yesterday, find out if there's anything needs done shopping wise or any range of things, if anything you know if there's damp in the house or whatever you do that there or if he needed more meds, if he needed more meds phone the GP. In the morning, you know you wake him up and doing everything, you get him in his bath and all that and take him through the normal steps that anyone would have before they went out during the day and then the staff come in at 12 o'clock, we have another changeover, so just that, how he's been that morning, how he's been sort of previously the day before, etc. have a discussion on what you're going to do during the day and then with the one boy I work with, one of the few ways of communicating with him, because he is non-verbal and he's deaf and he doesn't get a whole lot of BSL with his sort of learning disability, is giving him pictures of places that he goes out in the community. So, you give him a picture of his car, you'll give him a picture of the shops like he needs to go to Tesco to pick up some shopping and you'll give him a picture of like a park to go for a walk or you'll go to the cinema or whatever. You'll give him pictures of that and then you'll put the ... (... unclear) his house and come back and then you go and do whatever it is you do during the day.
MM So I take it you find your job rewarding then, yeah?
ER Uh huh, it's great you know there's some really awesome parts of the work that we do over time that you can really see improvement in. I mean the boy we work with, he's really low in his weight, he doesn't weigh a whole lot at all and we've actually added a stone worth of weight on to him which is starting to make him feel more comfortable in his own self like you know he can do the toilet and whatever a lot easier, which just makes him a whole lot happier just it's been something he's needed done for a while but to be part of that and to increase someone's health and make it better like that is really good fun. I like taking him into his ... he does work, he works in our building, Touchbase in Glasgow, it's in Tradeston, big ... he does recycling work so he recycles bins on the first floor of that building. We take him round and he'll do everything, you know just sometimes he needs to be prompted to take the bags etc. and then we'll take that out and put it in the skip and he gets money for that. So that's something that as far as for his capability, for his what he can achieve and his independence, that's massive because he's actually bringing in his own money to the thing and its stuff like that. Get him doing his work and all that etc. as well is really good because a lot of these people when they have a disability, sometimes don't want to do something, or sometimes people want to do things for him, that was kind of you don't want to be doing. You don't want to be ... like if they can put their own socks on and can get themselves dressed, they should do that like that should be ... you know you'd have to think that you'd want to put your clothes on so they should be let to do that so prompting him to do anything like that you know you get him doing hoovering around his house etc. that's all things that I really enjoy about it, but yeah it's quite a rewarding job.
MM I suppose you told us a wee bit about this, about your day to day when you're supporting this person, I suppose not every day's the same?
ER No, not every day's the same and so the only day's that are the same are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, when he goes to his work those will be the only days where he would do anything recurrent. Every second Thursday he gets a massage, lady comes in and gives him a massage, he quite likes that, it's quite a settling thing for him. He'll sit in that for about half an hour but apart from that you've got literally lee way to ... he's got his own car on mobility so we don't have any limits to mileage so we can take him quite far and take him to a lot of different places and use lots of different community resources and different things like that. You know, we took him down to Ayr just to go swimming just cos it was a new swimming pool and it's a new place for him to go, somewhere he doesn't know and he can explore those things which he does quite like. You know there's different things, down at Prestwick beach, take him down the east coast in Edinburgh, take him up towards Dundee, Perth and all these different places. So, we've got the flexibility of going anywhere, the one thing that you kind of want, always want to give him is that kind of communication, on his board that like you know we're going out and this is the type of things that we're going to do. We're going to be walking in a park, we're going to be going to a swimming pool, as long as you do that, you're hunky dory.
MM And I take it he finds going out and about better than to you know stay in all the time?
ER Yeah, aye, there's not a lot of communication he can give to indicate either way but it's part of kind of the integration into society is why you take them out, so it's like you're not just going to let him sit in a room and waste away. It's getting him out, getting him involved in different sort of community activities and things if you can. A lot of things, great things pop up that you can go and do, like there's Christmas fayre's, he quite likes going to Christmas fayres, he likes all these different lights and the different things, he loves all that stuff, so you take him to these things.
MM So you went to college so what kind of things have you ...?
ER So I went to ... I started off in sport, started off in sports in college and that was a number of different things and I think one thing that came from that I started taking a parapan football team and that was probably my first part of working with people with learning disabilities and extra support needs and that was really good. After that I decided to go and do an HNC in working with communities, which no one seems to ever know what it was and it's about any kind of community level work really. So, if you were working in CLD and sort of learning development with the young people and whatever. I've worked in youth centres and done things like that with the HNC you know if you were working in a community organisation, if you were working at the tenants association, if you were working you know like Silver Surfers or whatever trying to get elderly people to use computers and whatever and into community centres and teach them how to use computers more comfortably cos that is how like 90% of the world works now so it's a number of different things like that yeah, that's how it started.
MM Going back to your job for a minute, has your job ever changed over the years and I'm not talking about like the person that you work with now but I mean in kind of like general terms that, has it changed for all of you? So, have you saw any changes over the years?
ER I mean I've been in it a kind of brief amount of time but there's certainly been massive lots and lots of changes sort of in the industry and it's you know a lot of it we are so closely looked at for every level of work we do. So if it's medication administration records, your signing out medication, if you're like your daily recording sheets, ABC's, you've got your health and safety checklists for houses, you've got a fire safety checklist, you've got so many, many different things that you have to have paperwork processes and be accountable to your employer but not only your employer, the council, whoever you work with and really that's kind of taken more off in the last sort of 10 years or so because there was so many times where you know you had the Winterburn report recently that came out that was so ... people don't do that, that's not the way people act but because that had such massive media coverage, there's a lot of people that have a perception of us that we need to be watched at every single point in time. That's one of these things that have changed massively, we are so scrutinised essentially, we have to be very accountable obviously all for reasons you know, another thing that's massively changing things is the money that's involved in social care. There's a number of changes that could come up with sort of sleepover packages and what's been happening with the sleepover packages is basically people have been getting paid less than minimum wage to go to their work and sleep there. Now a lot of people don't really manage sleep, a lot of people have service users that might get up in the night, they might go to the toilet or whatever, might start screaming for 10 minutes and go to bed, a range of different things and if it was a case of that someone was going to get up and go to the toilet and then go back to their bed, your companies are expecting you to just take that and stay on your sleepover package rather than get paid for it which kind of to me, you're getting paid less than minimum wage anyway to sleep so I don't see that as soon as you're up that you should be getting paid at all, you know but part of things that is in the pipeline that the Scottish government have said "All sleepovers are now going to be the minimum wage, the national minimum wage." Which will mean for councils and companies that they're going to have to find a whole lot more money all of a sudden to pay these people back who have been on sleepovers etc. me included cos I do them and the argument is that they don't have the money to pay ... from a democratic starting point it was illegal what they were doing, people were at work for less than minimum wage and that's one of the things that's going to change. It's in the pipeline I've been told, very much that that's going to come in and people are going to get minimum wage for sleepovers. What they're going to look to do, with councils is probably to not have sleepovers wherever they can and I've seen situations where it's you know there's maybe a couple of houses near to like a care home and the couple of houses will probably, they'll assess the needs of those service users obviously but they'll try and not have sleepovers there and just have waking nightshift on at the care home and if they were to get up it would be someone that would go and drive down and attend to them, I've seen a number of different things like that to go in and also with the budget cuts it's been so massive that there's a lot of people that aren't getting the care they need at times. You know I've seen people who have to be in their bed at 9 o'clock at night and then not get up until 9 o'clock during the day who don't have the capability of moving themselves cos they need staff to put them in a hoist, etc. but the staff are going home at 9 o'clock so there's no care for them after 9 o'clock so they need to be in their bed so they have to be there on 9 o'clock through to 9 o'clock during the day so you're essentially taking away any form of choice they would have which when you set up the social care it was to promote choice and now it's kind of slowly going away from things like that.
MM So how do you feel about self-directed support? Cos, I know self-directed support works in different areas and people like or people don't like it, I don't know why but do you think that's kind of helped people over the years, likes of you getting support to the individual?
ER Absolutely cos you have to assess where the individual is and it should all be outcome based, like I believe that you don't just come in and support someone and do things for them and be really nice, you know, you're working towards outcomes. Everyone has outcomes, it might be improving their health and wellbeing, you know it's all integrating them into society and that's these different things we've got like taking guys to work and trying to get them ... just to see where they'll go with it. You should always be pushing to try and get towards people being as independent as they can if it's a case of someone needs a couple of extra hours of support in their work or a couple of hours you know, for someone to drive them about cos they don't have a car and they don't have access to that I would be quite happy for that to be the case but if they're capable of you know getting themselves dressed, moving around the house and really being a part of this society then they should be looking to do that, that should be the case. Certainly, the support that you give them is always with that intention of how independent can they be themselves? But yeah that support's crucial for so many people, there's so many service users that if they didn't have that support, you know they'd have life threatening potential cases. If there's people that can't control their own epileptic seizures and there's no one around to support them if they have a seizure, that could be seriously devastating if it's someone that is deaf and blind and can't hear a fire alarm or somethings and the house is on fire, the only way they'd know is through a sense of smell, that they wouldn't have any idea of doing those things so there's certain things like that, that you really have to understand why we're there and you know it's also a safeguard and protecting thing as well as trying to support them to be as independent as they can.
MM Finally, if people listening to this and they're in 2 minds whether to be a support worker or go for that kind of job, what would you say to people to maybe encourage them or to go to this kind of environment, social care?
ER Well it's an environment that's ever changing and there's certainly light at the end of the tunnel with regards to you know your pays obviously very important, that's how you pay your bills but it's really easy to get full time hours in this job, there's not a lot of services that are fully staffed at all and there's so many different things that you can gain experience from and all these companies all train you really well. Now I've done medication training, epilepsy training all these different things that are really, really good that if you wanted to start off in care and then go into nursing and you know into the more medication, like a pharmaceutical or something you would have a bit of a background of using these things and have that understanding already and it's also just a great rewarding experience to be able to interact with some of these service users, some of these people have a ... you know they're all people, a lot of these guys have seen music, you know there's a lot of service users that go to gigs and whatever and you get to support them there, you know that's awesome fun you know, you're getting a free ticket to go and see Coldplay or something you know cos you're at your work and it could be a lot worse certainly and there's so many a range of different things that will come up during a year, so many things you'll get the opportunity to do, so I think certainly you know just take that opportunity if you get it, you know it's all there.