My name is Luke. I’ve been a Like Family Social Carer (support worker) since August 2017 and I’ve loved every second!
1. What made you want to work in the disability sector?
The idea that going to work every day could be outrageously fun AND make real, positive impacts in our community felt almost like cheating! Over my time I’ve got to work with awesome people with all sorts of disabilities, most of whom are about 40 times cooler than me.
Over my time working in this sector, I’ve got to work with people who have given TED talks, who have competed in international Bocce competitions and Australian chess champions! But I’ve also got to work alongside everyday people who are about as diverse as they can get! I’ve loved it!
I think people are pretty awesome, and working with people with disabilities definitely helps confirm that!
2. What is the difference between Like Family and other organisations in the aged and disability care industry?
Like Family really creates space for autonomy and choice; it’s awesome that seekers have total choice about when, where and how services are carried out. The nature of the rest of the sector means that people with disabilities are told how and when to do certain activities. All their fun has to be scheduled around regular working times.
But with Like Family, they’re able to choose when they get to do the things they want! If they want to just hang out, and don’t want to go out right this second, we can just chill at home. If they want to go out on a Saturday night, outside of business, they can do that! AND if they don’t like me, they never have to see me again!
I love that Like Family give people the dignity of choice!
3. What would you say to people who think that this kind of work is just for women? And why do you think it's important for more guys to get into this?
Society holds this weird view that caring is just for women, and so we encourage women into roles like nursing and social work and disability care. But I’ve never met a man who didn’t care, at some level, about the world around them! So, it’s utterly surprising to me, that there aren’t more men in this sector!
Working in disability can seem not as ‘cool’ as other professions to lots of men, but in this job, I’ve got to do some of the coolest work, alongside some of the coolest people. Because people with disabilities are just people. They’ve got diverse interests, and so I’ve worked with all sorts of people; people who love hanging at the beach, going to footy, playing maths games or going to see pub rock! Working in the disability sector means you get to do awesome stuff, alongside awesome people.
4. What is your idea of social inclusion? Why is this so important in your work?
I’m a social worker in training, and social workers are huge ‘theory nerds’; we can’t get enough of frameworks and models and theories. One of my favourite frameworks is the ‘social model of disability’, which defines disability on a societal level, not an individual one. It says that our society is structured in a way that privileges able-bodied people and makes it difficult for people with disability to have equal access in society.
In less wordy terms, our society makes it really hard for people with disability to get what they need. The responsibility shouldn’t be on people with disability to find creative, but difficult ways to work around a complex society, but on society to make itself more accessible for people with disability.
So, for me, social inclusion is all about ensuring everyone has equal access to participate in society. Part of the role of a Social Carer is to make sure that happens, that people with a disability are able to participate in the same, or similar ways as those without a disability.
On a practical level, sometimes that means being their eyes, ears or even mouths. I remember sitting at the beach with my client who was blind, and he just asked me to describe what was happening in front of him. It would have been easy to ride off that request and ignore it, rather than take it seriously and allow him to fully experience the beach in all its wonder!
On the other hand, sometimes it means making myself ‘invisible’, to intervene as little as possible to allow the member to achieve their full potential on their own. One of my non-verbal clients ‘speaks’ via an app on his phone. It’s really easy to become overbearing and try and do it all for him, especially because it is a slower process than if I were to just speak! But the onus isn’t on him to learn to speak, but on us to be ready to listen.
5. Describe the kinds of connections you have built with people from Like Family
Let me tell you a bit about my buddy Nick. Nick is an awesome guy; he is gentle and kind and FUN. Nick also happens to be non-verbal. He’s about a year older than me and we share a love of all things music! Nick and I have got to go watch musicals, Michael Jackson impersonators and rock bands together. Nick knows his music inside and out, so we’ve learnt to communicate in lots of ways about how he’s appreciating the music.
Probably my favourite way that Nick shows his appreciation of music is when he hits the dance floor! And let me tell you, Nick is KING of the DF! I thought I was a pretty outrageous dancer, but I’ve got NOTHING on Nick! When Nick and I hit the dance floor, all eyes are on him! Pretty regularly people applaud him as he leaves the dance floor for his enthusiastic efforts. His talents especially lie in all things ‘air instruments’; I’ve never seen anyone quite so good at air guitar! Nick and I have had so much fun together dancing to the Bee Gees and Cyndi Lauper.
See what I mean about how working as a Social Carer not feeling like work?
6. What useful skills and abilities have you developed as a Social Carer?
All sorts, pretty much all of my clients have been non-verbal, for one reason or another. So, as I’ve hung out with them, I’ve learnt a lot about creative means of communicating! I’ve learnt to listen with my eyes; to really get to understand different body languages and to think creatively about how we communicate.
7. What would you say to people who were considering becoming Social Carers?
DO IT! Not only do you get to participate in work that doesn't feel like work, you also get to make real, positive in the lives of the people you work with. One of the great things about Like Family is that YOU get autonomy about when and how you work. If you love painting, then you can use that when and how you want. If you love the footy, you can get amongst that, when and how you want to!
See more information about becoming a Social Carer here, and see if you have what it takes to become a Social Carer!