Support Worker Wanted

Last year I led a creative project called Invisible Touch. It explored the relationship between physical touch and the experience of giving and receiving care. As part of this I interviewed other disabled people who had experience of care, and you can find them here.

Since then I’ve thought a lot about something my friend and incredible writer, Matilda Feyisayo Ibini, said during the conversation I had with her. Matilda described care as being part of a team – working with the person supporting you to achieve a shared goal. This resonated very strongly with me.

Often care is presented as purely clinical or transactional, but this doesn’t reflect my experience of what good support feels like. I’ve been thinking about how to describe the vital, varied, and valued role of my support workers, particularly those who support me at work, because I’m currently looking for someone to fill this role.

Six months ago, my regular in-work support worker, Claire, moved on. In the months before she left she’d been helping me find someone to replace her, but this was unsuccessful.

We’ve tried recruiting in several ways, but so far we haven’t found the right fit. Lots of great people have been filling in, but the lack of consistent, dedicated support is having a big impact on me and the wider team.

We’re now recruiting again, for both my support worker and for another role, both based in Peckham, South London. Both have the same hourly rate, although the working hours for each role are slightly different. The two roles are:

Support Worker to Co-Artistic Director – This role involves working closely with me, meeting my support requirements as a disabled artist. I’ll describe the detail of this role and what it involves day to day below. The salary is £28,080 per annum for 36 hrs a week, over 4 days. The job pack is here. Additional hours are also available if desirable.

Assistant to Co-Artistic Director – This is a more general role supporting the administration of Touretteshero as a company. This person will work with the whole team, particularly our co-artistic director. It involves looking after the calendar, managing emails and fielding work coming into the company. The salary is £31,200 per annum based on 40 hrs per week, over 5 days. The job pack is here

The closing date for both roles is Monday 17th July 2023

A photo of Jess Thom a white woman with short curly hair sitting in her bright blue wheelchair. Jess is wearing a tracksuit with a cherry motif and is smiling at the camera.

About the Support Worker role:

One of the challenges of finding someone to support me at work is the mix of skills and interests required. We’re looking for someone who can support my access and care requirements – helping me move around in my wheelchair, helping me go to the toilet, and helping to manage sudden intensifications of my tics.

But I also need someone who can assist me with my work as co-artistic director – being in the room during creative projects, writing emails or reports, and liaising with colleagues and clients. To get more of a sense of our work you can read a roundup of what we did last year here.

For the right person I know this is a great role with lots of variety and the chance to experience the inner workings of a growing creative organisation. But it’s also a role that isn’t always easy to understand.

The ideal candidate might have supported disabled people before, or this could be something new. What’s most important is that you’re calm, open to providing sensitive support and learning new skills. You don’t have to have worked in the arts before but an interest in creativity, and nurturing it in others, is important. Because the role involves personal care, applicants need to be female. It’s also great if you’re a driver and are happy to work in an environment with a cat, although this is not essential.

My role as co-artistic director is varied and includes performing, creating new pieces of art, and designing and running programmes for disabled and non-disabled children and adults. The support worker role could be great for someone who’s interested in being a creative producer or for a recent graduate wanting to get a broad range of experience in the arts. If you’ve been working supporting disabled people and want to get more involved with disability arts and culture, this could also be a great role for you.

Because what I do is so diverse, workdays vary a lot depending on what’s happening at the time. This is also true for my support worker. Typically, the day starts at my home in Peckham, and we then travel the short distance to the Touretteshero office together. My support worker is essential for to guiding me through the day, helping me manage my time and energy, taking notes in meetings, uploading new blog posts, prioritising work, and writing emails for me. The day ends back at my home. If I’m traveling in the UK or internationally, either to perform or deliver talks or training, my support worker would usually go with me (with paid overtime and all expenses covered.) I rest for two hours every afternoon.

Touretteshero pays all staff for a one hour lunch break and my support worker has an additional hour as an ‘on call’ break each day. Touretteshero values staff wellbeing and you can read more about our approach to this here. The advertised role is 36 hours a week over 4 days. Currently this is 9.30am-6.30pm. There is some flexibility about which days, and we’re open to applications from people who would like to work fewer or more hours each week. As this role also involves helping me transfer in and out of my wheelchair, some physical strength and stamina is necessary.

Support and training will be given to help you learn the role and you’ll be part of a close, friendly team. People who have excelled in this role have been calm, organised, and have good attention to detail. Having Tourettes means I sometimes behave in ways that can be challenging – you can read more about these here – and we have systems and policies that provide support around this. If you’d like to discuss this or any other aspect of the role further please do get in touch.

Getting to know a new support worker is a process which can sometimes feel daunting. Katy Evans, another disabled person who requires close support, has written a great piece on this, which I think offers useful insight.

If you’re reading this and you’re not sure whether you should apply or not, please don’t rule yourself out: get in touch with any questions.

I’m only able to be an artist and a leader because of my support worker. I’m taking the time to write this post because it’s a unique, nuanced, and important position, and because we’re really keen to find and invest in the right person.

I’m looking for someone with whom I can form a team, have adventures, and make art. If that’s you or someone you know, the job pack full of info is here, or you can email:

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