Working together, improving lives

August 2023

What Is A Support Worker and What Do They Do?

To those untrained in the field of Social care, it might be difficult to distinguish the differences in responsibilities between a Healthcare Assistant and a Support Worker. The latter assists people in their daily lives, promoting independence, providing physical and emotional support and encouraging them to achieve their goals. But did you know the responsibilities of a Support Worker also differs depending on their support setting or those they support?

In this week’s blog, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of Support Work; specifically, the different responsibilities of a Support Worker, the people they care for and the types of roles available to Support Workers.

DHC Blog Banner 2023 08 03 T124731 652

Support Workers and Mental Health Provisions

The key objective of a Support Worker in the field of mental health is to contribute, positively, to a person’s overall well-being and state of mind. These roles will vary depending on each persons specific needs. Some may have experienced substance abuse or addiction, while others could be diagnosed with depression or schizophrenia or face anxiety from past traumatic experiences. What remains the same however, is the duties of a Support Worker, including; providing these people with assistance in managing their daily life and the challenges they may face along the way. Encouraging them to make conscious decisions about the choices they make. Enabling them to continue living functionally, that is, to encourage healing and making needed changes, and encouraging them to seek new and positive experiences such as; exercise routines, socialising with friends or community groups, and providing structure.

Key skills for a Mental Health Support Worker include;

  • Being able to comprehend a person’s feelings beyond what they might present physically i.e. a strong understanding of cognitive emotions.
  • Listening carefully to a persons needs, wants or questions and responding appropriately, building a mutual understanding of each other through rapport.
  • Communicating effectively to that person, creating a non-judgemental environment for them and a safe space to discuss their thoughts and feelings.
  • Considering how eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice and body language can impact and influence the feelings of that person.

Support Workers who care for those with mental health needs are sometimes also referred to as MHSW or Mental Health Support Workers. Those who specialise in drug rehabilitation may also be referred to as Recovery Support Workers.

DHC Blog Banner 2023 08 03 T125047 531

Support Workers and Learning Disabilities

A learning disability affects how a person is able to learn new things throughout their life, but it is not an indicator of intellectual ability. Typically, learning disabilities are classified as mild, moderate, severe or profound and are incredibly varied and hyper-specific to each individual. A Support Worker assisting people with learning disabilities may work with just one individual, or a group of people who live in a supported environment, sometimes referred to as a Residential Support Worker, or Supported Living Support Worker.

The key responsibilities of a Learning Disabilities Support Worker include; promoting independence and wellbeing, facilitating service users to live as much an independent life as they can, building a relationships which will foster trust, acceptance and understanding. Assisting with daily tasks, which might include; budgeting a weekly shop, preparing a home-cooked meal, washing clothes or cleaning their room as well as supporting them to take part in activities, building aspirations and goal-setting. The specific care plan will depend on each person’s needs and capabilities, but a Support Worker will ensure their service users have opportunities and are satisfied with their day-to-day activities at all times.

Key skills for a Learning Disability Support Worker include;

  • The ability to communicate effectively, being encouraging, supportive, friendly, reliable, considerate or empathetic.
  • Encouraging healthy choices by providing information.
  • Being patient with those being supported. They might take longer to adjust to different environments, new people or varied conversations and could present with challenging behaviour.
  • Being able to motivate someone to set and reach their goals in an effort to promote success and foster independence.
  • Compassion in all that they do, supporting people with learning disabilities is a unique role and having positivity and compassion will help to build relationships better than if a person is tough, unhappy or unreliable in their role.

Support Workers who care for those with learning disabilities may also be referred to as; LDSW or Learning Disability Support Worker or a Residential Support Worker.

DHC Blog Banner 2023 08 03 T125240 976

Domiciliary Support Workers

Domiciliary Support Workers will visit people in their own homes for specified periods of time throughout their week. The service user’s may live alone or with family and may only require assistance with certain tasks, such as cooking, washing, or getting out and about in the community. The reason for people to require support in their own home, could be down to a number of factors, including mental health needs, learning disabilities, reduced mobility, or the fact that they require support alongside healthcare assistance too. Often, in a domestic setting, Support Workers will work alongside an additional healthcare professional, such as a healthcare assistant or nurse, as such, a key skill is the ability to work both independently and in a small team.

Other key skills for a Support Worker in Domestic Settings include:

  • Being a self-starter, reliable and capable of managing their own time.
  • Responding to a variety of different needs and understanding that your clients may be reluctant to accept your assistance in a number of ways, e.g. knowing you can help, but thinking they can do it better.
  • Not only being able to provide mental and emotional support, but also physical support too, being mindful of manual handling.

Support Workers in domestic settings may also be referred to as Domiciliary Workers, Personal Care Assistants or Care Assistants.

DHC Blog Banner 2023 08 03 T125715 037

Other Types of Support Worker:

There are additional types of Support Worker roles, these can include; Day Care Centre Support Worker, Recovery Support Worker, Rehabilitation Support Worker and Child and Family Support Worker, though generally speaking, the latter doesn’t fall under the health and social care remit and is typically associated with children’s services departments of local councils and sometimes schools.

DHC Blog Banner 2023 08 03 T130306 799

Through reading this blog, we hope you’ve learnt about the multidisciplinary responsibilities and duties of a Support Worker and how these adapt depending on different care settings or specific individual’s needs. Being a Support Worker in these unique environments can be challenging for some, but for many, their role provides them with a sense of purpose and a feeling of accomplishment as they directly impact the lives of another being.

If you would like to learn more about being a Support Worker, or are looking for an alternative Support Worker role including; flexible working hours, weekly pay, accrued holiday pay and ongoing training and development throughout your career, consider one of our roles at Dean Healthcare today! Just visit to find our latest roles and opportunities.