Yesterday, The Independent published an opinion piece written by Jo Brand about care workers. I like Jo and there were some sound points in the article. There was, however, the usual portrayal of care workers as doing hard, boring, unrewarding (on many levels) work with very little job satisfaction. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case with Steven’s support team, but I worry that it might be. The basic evidence doesn’t support my anxiety. Of the team of five, the longest standing worker has been with Steven since 2005 (16 years) and the most recent addition to the team has been with us 8 years. If the job was that unbearable, would they want to stay so long? I know that their pay is significantly better than it was when they were employed by an agency, but would an extra £2.50 per hour compensate for a decade of daily drudgery?

Whilst Steven was busy doing important business last night, I sat in his living room with the guy on night shift and asked him: “What is it like working with Steven?”

Here are some of the responses:

“He’s taught me about a lot of music from the past that I never knew about. Steven is a good teacher. He’s got good musical taste” (As I type this, I can hear him in the next room ,whistling “Kids In America” whilst doing the ironing.)

“I’ve learned to swim. We don’t do a lot of swimming back in Nigeria.”

“I like doing Steven’s haircut and his shave. It’s good to help him be a handsome gentleman.”

“Steven Neary is an orderly man. It’s nice to help him keep his house in order.”

“I like watching Steven talk about his photos with you. It’s good to see love.”

“It’s good to help Steven do more things for himself. We enjoy packing away the shopping together on Wednesday mornings.”

“When Steven gets agitated, I’ve learned a lot about helping him get back on an even keel.”

He identified some lowlights obviously. He’d rather not have had his spectacles broken twice in ten years and walking into the bathroom after Steven has emptied his bowels can be like entering the village of the damned, but as he said:

“You take the rough with the smooth. There’s a lot more smooth.”

As I lay in bed last night, I thought about my own work that I have been doing for 23 years. Why do I keep doing it?

It’s all about relationships really. Those moments when two human beings hang out together and special things happen. On the day another newspaper report came out about DNR notices being placed on learning disabled people, it’s mightily reassuring to know that Steven plays his part in valuable, meaningful relationships.

4 thoughts on “Gentlemen”

  1. I too would like to think that my sons support workers get something back in the way of life experience. I dont expect them to stay years and years as their life has its own crossroads but I am so very grateful to what they give and I respect everything they do for my Ryan. (However I have noticed that they are getting younger or is it I am growing older)

  2. Every person who has worked with our son from school to now late 20s “he’s taught me so much more than I’ve ever taught him”. Always learning always surprising.

  3. I was reflecting the other day on jobs that I have done over the years, my time as a support worker were excellent. So many laughs and connections, I’m still in touch with one of my people 15 years after first working with her and have enjoyed lots of Friday nights with her while her parents have an evening out. Absorbing yourself into someone else’s interests so that they can enjoy them is a real privilege. There is a particular roundabout followed by a mini humpback bridge that I can’t help but shout ‘again, again’ in my head as I drive over it as I remember a lovely gentleman who used to enjoy going for a drive (we’d alternate- one week in ‘Anna’s car today’ and the next week ‘bus today’). We came across this little bridge one day and it was one that makes your tummy lurch if you go over it a bit fast- we did it about 5 times and then was a regular in our repertoire. Yes there were days when the repetition could become wearying- but that was always more about me that the other person. Thanks for your reflection Mark.

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