Michael McEwan has a conversation with Greg Campbell, a support worker who works with vulnerable adults.
Greg speaks about his motivations for pursuing a career in care, the transition from education to practice and the positive and challenging experiences.
It's an inspiring message for others, and particularly men, who may be considering a career in care.
MM Michael McEwan
GC Greg Campbell
MM Ok, now on Iriss.fm we are going to be talking to Greg Campbell. Greg Campbell is a support worker. So, Greg, why did you want to get into this kind of work?
GC Well, I have always felt that I have been a very helpful and supportive person. I think that comes a lot from my family and the way I have been brought up, just a very caring and nurtured, supporting environment. I think, also, through my grandad, he was blind and had a lot of supporting and caring for him in his house and out in the community, and he also had the same mentality of always putting other people first, always wanting to help other people, and I think from then I have just wanted to take that motivation and use it to help other people in different situations, yeh.
MM So, basically if it wasn't for you grandad, would you say you would want to get into this kind of work?
GC I think that's had a major impact, definitely, I think despite my grandad I think I would go into care work as well, just with being brought up in a kind of supportive environment, but I would say, on the whole, my grandad is a big influence because he was very supportive of myself and just a lot of different things, he was always there for me. I think that has been a motivation and behind the decision to go into care work.
MM You went to school, you left school, and I must ask you as well, when you were at school did you make up your mind or was it not until you went to college you made up your mind what you wanted to do?
GC I think it was maybe later on in school. I had a lot of different ideas in mind through other subject, like sports journalism was one, and languages, but I think as time went on later on and other different subjects that I did and speaking to different people it kind of helped and supported me in my decision to do care work. I think a lot of people in my school were supportive as well, but I think because I was a young guy, I think a lot of people see care work as being for women and, on the whole, it's older people as well who go into care, so I think having the confidence in myself and from my family that I can go into care and maybe put fresh ideas across, be supportive to other people is a big help. I think a lot of it does come from family support and close friends.
MM You were saying your family were supportive, were your pals supportive as well?
GC I think so, on the whole. Some of my friends were maybe more judgemental in regards, are you sure this is the kind of work you want to do, going into care? Do you know what's involved in the line of care work? And just totally kind of went off the idea completely, but I think once I had spoken to them about the different opportunities and the way you can help people, I think that kind of helped them to understand more my decisions to why I was going in. Now, as time has gone on, they are more supportive, and they are seeing the change in myself, the confidence and stuff as well that's helped me to grow.
MM We will go back and speak about what you are up to now, but lets go back to college. What kind of course did you do at college and how did you go about getting onto that course?
GC The course I did was an HNC in Social Care and part of that was SVQ level 3 in Health and Social Care, which was my practical side, like working in a work placement, supporting people as part of the course. I think the course was different advice from teachers at school and careers advisors, so when I did my own research as well I saw that South Lanarkshire College in East Kilbride was a good option to take. The courses are very good, it went back into development from when people are younger, from childhood to adolescence and also brought in psychology and sociology, the way people behave and think. It was a really good insight to a lot of care jobs that you go into, the way you would have to approach things positively. I think also the placement I went on as part of my college course really helped gain experience in different situations and how to help and the SVQ side was very practical, so there were different points in communication and independence, different things that you learn to do daily. That all helped.
MM So, how many years was that course? Or did you have to do a number of courses?
GC The HNC Social Care course was one year, which involved the SVQ, but the SVQ was 8 units. So, the first year the HNC only covered 4 units, so once I completed that I actually had to apply for college again to complete the SVQ, which I did the following year, because a lot of, I had seen that a lot of care jobs need the SVQ practical side to get into employment, so that's why I took that route.
MM You left college then and you wanted to go into the big bad world, your first job, so tell us about going into that environment. First of all, tell us the step between college and going into work and working with vulnerable adults, was it a difference, was it a big step?
GC Definitely. When I was at college during the placement it was mind blowing what you were going into, just a totally different, as you were saying, vulnerable adult and how you deal with different things as well. I think it was quite a big transition going into employment from there because, again, you are working with vulnerable adult and being my very first job in a care setting was really quite daunting, but I have always felt I am a kind of calm and patient person and I took a lot of advice on from the people at college in the way to help, which was really good. So, I started the job it was at the Coal Yard, that was like a training facility for working with people with learning difficulties in a, kind of, work based environment. So, it was like supporting people at gaining social interaction, customer service skills, till handling, basically preparing adults for work. All that was a kind of learning curve for me, I think getting, just actually building a relationship was an important part because I think a lot of the time you go into a new environment and you think about how you would feel just to go in right away and think, who are they just to come up and tell me what to do without actually getting to know the person, so I think the transition was actually just taking the time, as you would with anyone else, getting to know the person and how they work and building trust so that they support you and I think that helped actually going into the job, so then, from there, you were able to express team work because you had built the trust in the people, different jobs that they wanted to do. You would find more that people were coming up to you with different issues outside their work, like maybe they have had issues in the house, or whatever, and you would be able to support them as well. So, I think it was all important about building positive relationships.
MM You mentioned the word confidence there, did you notice a change in yourself when you got the job, to 5 weeks down the line to the job, and I am going to say the same question for the people that you were supporting because they are vulnerable adults and they are coming in and they are not very confident, to 2 weeks later they feel they can do this themselves, they don't need your support. Did you find it a change that way, from when they started to halfway?
GC Definitely, yeh. I think, as I say, about my own self confidence I think in anything you do you've got to believe in yourself and I think that's got to come across to other people as well because they are trusting you to teach them different skills in a kind of workplace, I think confidence is everything yourself. I just kind of believed in myself that if I took my time and built relationships with people then it would, basically acting like a role model, they would look up to you and go, "well Greg is always happy, or he is positive", so they kind of took that on board as well. Once I had grown in confidence I think, from when people had started who were shy, you kind of just took them through stages of general conversation to then when they were getting involved in different tasks to then they would maybe start to ask more questions and different things and what they would like to learn, and you just saw their confidence grow as you were building positive relationships. Basically, talking away to people, getting to know people, I think that really helped and there are a lot of people who were coming in and getting on with different things, it wasn't, "Can you help me with this Greg?", or, "Can you help me with that?", it was that they knew their routine and knew what they were doing and they knew I was there if they needed, but I think that was just through confidence growing and team work as a whole, I think that's where a lot of my confidence passing on to them, we are all in this together, there is no one individual, we are all part of a team, I think that really helped in seeing people grow.
MM Is your job challenging? What areas do you find harder than others?
GC On the whole I think it is very challenging. It can be long days, I think certain areas having pressure on yourself, just so much for wanting people to do well with different things, you don't want to see anyone failing, or you just have pressure on yourself, did I do this well? Could I have put this across better? I think just trying to emphasis that as much as possible in yourself to get the best out of other people. I think different behaviours as well that people had due to their disabilities and needs, it was just how you coped and helped people to manage that situation. That can be challenging because with some people it could take longer to handle the situation. I think it's just important to make sure that you are always there for people. Mentally it can be challenging as well because you can feel people are saying the same thing quite a lot, over and over, or different things, especially like hearing your name all the time, sometimes maybe thinking you want to change your name, but I think it's all about the approach and how you look at different things. I am always calm, kind of, supportive and helpful and patient and I think that really helped to minimise the challenging aspects of the job. I think if you can put your approach on different things it helps people to deal with what they are going through.
MM We spoke about the challenges, let's speak about the rewarding side of your job, how rewarding is your job?
GC It's really rewarding. It's a fantastic career to have and despite some challenges I think, on the whole, it is more rewarding because you get to see the impact and the benefit that you can do for people. For some people it is putting a smile on their face or meeting new friends or gaining a new skill and being able to come home and say I have done this for my mum or I have done that for other people, and just a great feeling I yourself that you have managed to have an impact on someone else, that you have been able to see the effects that other people can do and you are feeling in yourself, "I did this, I put that across", and then just hoping for people to continue that on. It is really, really rewarding, you get to see the benefits of the impact it can have on people's lives.
MM Do you think that, I know you shave only been working as a support worker for 4 or 5 years, have you seen small changes through that period of time in different jobs, or maybe in care work as a whole? Or do you think that there is still work to be done, especially along the lines of raising awareness of care work?
GC I think as of recently there has been a lot of improvement with a lot of different government regimes that have helped and getting rights for people with learning disabilities of disabilities out there, for more people and employers to understand and help people. I do think there is still a wee bit of way to go because I just think society, on the whole, can be judgemental with a lot of different things and people may assume that because they have a disability they can't do this or that. That's not necessarily, I don't think that's true at all, I think it's just giving people a chance, giving people a bit of hope that someone believes in them. I think that's the biggest thing about raising awareness, that they just need someone to be there for them, someone that cares, that they can be themselves in society without people judging every move they make or do. I think it has improved but there is still improvement to go, definitely.
MM I think people assume, that they see the disability before they see the person, but it should be the other way about, it should be looking at the person and then their disability.
MM So, last question, what would you say to anyone listening to this interview that, oh I am leaving school, but I want to be a support worker, but I have not totally made up my mind yet, so this is your selling point, how would you sell your job? How would you sell the care work to people that hasn't made up their mind yet about moving into that kind of work?
GC I think for people just to look at themselves and their gut instincts. If they have the personality of being caring and they think they can make a difference and want to support people I would say, by all means, definitely go for it. If there is still a bit of uncertainty then maybe seek further advice, phoning colleges and universities or other places of work to what is actually involved. I think a lot of it comes from within yourself, I think if you feel that you are ready and that you have got it in you, basically self-belief I think, and seeing the rewards as well I think, if people do research and look at different things that are there to raise awareness. I think people will click on and think, I want to do that, look at the rewards this person is getting, it just takes different things to see, but I think they can do it, definitely.
MM Ok Greg, thanks for your time.
GC Thanks you.