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Working with Guideposts – Leah

Leah started working with Guideposts in spring this year (2021), as a support worker in our GLADS and Dig’n’Grow services in Oxfordshire. She told us about the experience – and why she doesn’t want to leave!

What was the recruitment process like?

My Dad happened to meet Tim (Manager of Guideposts’ Oxfordshire services) at work, and they were talking about the Guideposts services. Dad thought it sounded perfect for me, so I arranged to have an interview.

I am studying health and social care at college, and had been doing a placement for my course in a special needs school for the previous 6 months. I loved it, and was really sad to leave, so this sounded like a great way to build on that experience.

I had an interview, and was accepted, and then the process was really quick and easy. I already had a DBS through my course, and when I attended for training I found that I had done a lot of the online courses already at college so there was no problem.

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What were your first impressions?

When I started work I was immediately comfortable. Everyone was extremely welcoming. All the team were really friendly and supportive.

What is the work like?

As a job it’s not very physically demanding, but it is emotionally demanding – you are engaged with people all day long.

We find out what the service members like and arrange activities to suit them and help them. Inevitably not everyone in the service likes the same things, but we find ways to engage each person.

For example, we do quite a lot of art and crafts and there’s one man who’s not really into arty stuff, but he’s into tattoos in a big way. So I asked him to draw what he’d like his next tattoo to be, and he loved it.

All service users love baking (and especially eating!!). When we re-started that activity everyone was really happy, it was amazing. It’s not just the eating – some people love mixing things together and others the process of turning the ingredients into something really yummy.

The senior staff are so good – if I’m struggling with something or not sure what to do in a particular situation, they are amazing and help me find the right approach.

Do you see changes in the service members?

They all progress amazingly. The service is completely person-centred and from day 1 we get to know what each person likes and wants to achieve.

Over time I have been able to see the service users have got more comfortable with me. Even the non-verbal members, you can tell by their presence and body-language. It’s really nice to see.

There isn’t a single service user I wouldn’t want to work with. I love working with them all.

Highlights

Leah dancing

One highlight was working with a particular service member for the first time. She can display really challenging behaviour and is therefore supported 2:1, but it’s amazing to get to know her, and to help her. Every time I work with her I get better at it, although it’s challenging work she really helps me to improve. The senior support workers have helped me with that too.

There have been some emotional events – for example when one of our members lost a family member, it was really hard. It’s hard to separate my work and life outside work, especially when something like that happens to people you are caring for. We talked about how to respond to it in our team meetings, so we were all supported, and discussed how to speak to him about it.

Have you seen any particular issues from COVID-19?

The general anxiety was easing off when I arrived. The main thing is that the members are missing some activities that we still can’t do while safety measures are in place.

For me personally, although I’m 17 I was able to get both the vaccine doses which I’m really happy about.

You were planning for it to be a part-time summer job – what happened?

Yes, firstly I was planning to work part-time, but when I finished my college work in the summer I went pretty much full-time.  I just couldn’t be away from it!

Then I was going to leave at the end of August to go back to college, but when it came to it I couldn’t leave.  I now have 1 day off from college each week and I work here. I really look forward to it.

Does working with Guideposts tie in with your study?

My work at Guideposts has helped to understand some of my college work in practical applications. For example, we were talking about DOLS (Deprivation of Liberties Safeguards) at work, and then we were studying the legislation at college. Instead of it being dry and boring law, I was able see how it applies to how we treat people. It’s all very well studying something in a class-room or text-book, but great to actually experience it – and it makes it so much easier to retain the information.

At the moment I’m applying to go to university. My experience of working at Guideposts is really helpful, including all the incredible training I’ve had.

I love caring for people and am applying to study midwifery. It’s different to the work I’ve been doing, but not that different – how to help someone who may be struggling in a difficult situation. I have also looked at other subjects, eg mental health nursing, and am keeping my mind open.

Describe Guideposts in 3 words

Warm – it’s like a family, although that’s clichéd it’s true.

Considerate – we consider everyone’s individual needs.

Compassionate – the people here genuinely care about what they do and want to improve people’s lives.

What would you say to someone thinking of working with Guideposts?

It’s such a rewarding job. When I go home I feel like I’ve done something worthwhile, there’s a real sense of achievement every day.

I wouldn’t suggest it to someone who isn’t going to put themselves into it, you can’t stand on the side-lines.

Find out more about opportunities to work with Guideposts here: https://guideposts.org.uk/opportunities

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