As part of our #DYWKeyWorkers campaign we spoke to Zennor Bacon, a carer and former modern apprentice support worker, to ask her about her typical day as well as gain an insight into her career journey.

What attracted you to the industry you are in?

I wanted an opportunity to help people and after exclusively working in retail, I was just craving something more personally rewarding that allowed me to make a difference to some people’s lives.

How long have you been with Aberdeen City Council?

Six months with the Council. For three years I was with various agencies.

Describe your day-to-day role

Len Ironside is an activity-based centre for adults with learning disabilities running from 09:00 to 15:00 every weekday. Each day I take part in supporting our service users to participate in various activities of their preference. There is a choice of two activities per day with a session running in the morning between 10:30 and 12:00 then their afternoon activity from 13:30 to 14:45! Every day is different and while part of my role is to support our service users with basic needs such as feeding and personal care, I also get to help them achieve their full potential during activities such as; drama, music, art therapy, relaxation, storytelling, baking, gardening, working group, computing and bus trips to various locations including a swimming trip!

At my temporary residential assignment at Balnagask Court my main role is to support service users in their daily home life, e.g. morning routines such as bathing and dressing, housework and dispensing medication. Ordinarily, if we were not in lockdown, my role here would also include taking service users out with one-to-one support on the bus to go into town for lunch/shopping etc or attend their place of work in some cases.

What kind of training have you done?

During my time as a carer/support worker I have been given the opportunity to attend numerous training courses to help me to further my learning and more fully understand my role therefore being able to provide the best support possible to my service users. These include; basic care induction, moving and handling, medication, epilepsy care, PEG training and basic first aid.

What skills have you learned?

Aside from formal skills such as administering rescue medication or using PEG tubes, my communication skills have also improved. As each service user has their own way of communicating sometimes this can be difficult in varied ways ranging from having to understand mumbling/slurred speech to communicating with those who have an inability to talk altogether and rely on simple sign language (Makaton) gestures. Also my ability to work with other carers in a team has improved as we rely on each other for support and guidance and need to be able to pull together when situations call for direct action.

Have you completed any professional qualifications?

I am currently completing my SVQ Level 2 in Health and Social Care which has been made available to me and funded by the Modern Apprentice program.

Do you like living and working in the North-east?

The North-east of Scotland is a nice area to live and work in. Aberdeen specifically is a relatively safe, close-knit community that has plentiful resources for both work and leisure. I will always consider it a home.

What skills are the most important for you to do your job well?

Patience is absolutely key when it comes to support work as every day is different and there are many situations that occur when you need to be able to stay calm to assess and deal with things safely. A caring nature is obviously necessary. You need to be able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and really do your best to help them at every chance by putting their needs before your own when the situation calls for it.

Social abilities are important as you need to be able to communicate effectively at all times with service users and your care team to keep things running smoothly and maintain good, healthy relationships with everyone

Was there anything about the job that surprised you?

I suppose I was surprised about how much support and training that is available to you when you first start. I always assumed you would need some type of formal experience before applying (which had put me off before as initially I had no experience in this field whatsoever) but by simply having basic numerical/English skills, a caring nature and a willingness to be open to learning means this job is available to you.

Is there anything unusual about your role?

I think my role as a support worker is unusual in that I spend a lot of time genuinely having fun at work whereas I’m aware there are many careers which do not allow for this at all. Being happy and keeping our service users smiling is literally in the job description so we get to create exciting and stimulating environments in which to bring out the best in people. This is role where your individuality is a key focus and I find that it’s really beneficial to your own personal mental health when you feel valued.

Do you get a lot of support from your company?

The support network in my company is structured and managed well. Regular supervisions scheduled with my line manager and our team leader’s open-door policy which allows me to raise any issues at any time means I don’t ever feel alone with any problems and know I always have someone to back me up. We are constantly encouraged to raise any concerns and always given a helpful and honest response in return

What’s favourite part of your job?

Personally, I enjoy getting to be creative and do something different every day e.g. making a mess with art supplies or playing games whilst bonding with service users. I also enjoy the rewarding feeling of knowing you’ve helped someone achieve something. Even something as simple as helping to make a finger painting or supporting someone to make themselves a cup of tea independently can do a lot for their self-esteem and general happiness so it’s nice to be a part of something as wholesome as that

Did you always want to pursue a career in this industry?

I always wanted to have a job caring for people in some way. I considered being a doctor or nurse when I was younger because the role of a carer/support worker was never really mentioned when it came to career prospects at school. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this job later in life as it fits my skill set more accurately.

What is your advice for school leavers looking for apprenticeship?

An apprenticeship is a really good way to progress with your learning whilst simultaneously getting straight into work. One of the good things about it is you obviously get to learn on the job as opposed to being detached from the role by studying theory only. This gives you a more rounded understanding of the job you are working towards as a whole and allows you to figure out straight away whether it’s the right path for you

What is your career goal?

After working as a carer for adults with learning disabilities for over three years now I feel my experience may help me to progress in my studies and allow me apply to university for learning disability nursing at some point in the future.

How does it feel to be a KeyWorker on the frontline, supporting the Country’s fight against Covid-19?

It’s interesting to see which jobs are really necessary for the country to run smoothly and others which aren’t. I feel like a lot of essential workers can be quite overlooked sometimes so it’s nice to see attention being drawn to these roles including shop workers, bus drivers, cleaners etc. My main concern at first, knowing that I would be travelling to and from work during the pandemic, was that I might end up being a carrier of the virus and infecting a service user so infection control has been an absolute priority of mine. It was slightly unsettling at first having to be redeployed to another service after my usual workplace was closed but now I do feel glad for the experience and the job security

Tell us what makes you proud to be a Keyworker

Being a carer involves putting others needs before your own on a regular day so it doesn’t feel like much has changed it that respect. I guess I could say that I’m proud of every keyworker including my immediate colleagues and myself for continuing to work to support our service users in the community despite the challenges of risking our own safety.