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Participant Insights: What Makes a Great Support Worker?

Participant Insights: What Makes a Great Support Worker?

Jess C.
09 Aug 2023 •
4 min read
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Siobhan is a 22-year-old living with Cerebral Palsy and has been an NDIS Participant since it began. With years of experience with hiring and booking all types of Support Workers, we've asked for her thoughts on what makes a great Support Worker. Here's what she had to say...


Note: What makes a great Support Worker is individual to every NDIS Participant. Some people have different preferences than others, so it’s important to really think about what works best for you and your needs.

What Makes A Good Support Worker For You, Siobhan? 

Personally, as a Participant with significant physical needs, the qualities I look for in great Support Workers are:


As someone who takes a long time to communicate and a twenty-something-year-old living by themselves, the last thing I want is for a Support Worker to "baby talk" me or talk so much I can't keep up.

There is a saying in the AAC world, "presume competence," that I think should apply across the board. If we assume everyone can understand everything that is going on, we can then adjust as needed.

Also, understanding non-verbal communication while I haven't got AAC comes into play when choosing workers. 

Great Work Ethic

I love it when people come to work wanting to work. Which seems silly, but it definitely makes my life easier. I also love it when my Support Workers automatically do jobs they know need to be done. I love when someone automatically starts dusting or mopping or sweeping just because they want something to do. This is someone who obviously wants to work and wants something to do, and that's an excellent quality. 

Also, it may not be everyone's preference, but some people just want you to get in, do what you have to do and then leave them alone. Some days I'll happily sit at the table while my Support Worker completes tasks, but then are others when I sit at my desk in front of my computer and do not want to be disturbed. These are the times when being able to do your job and get out is really valued.

Don’t Do Something For Me Just Because You Can

I'm guilty of letting my Support Workers run my house for years just because they could. This was a lot easier on me, I didn't care about when we ran out of bread or what happened when anything terrible happened, but this also enabled me to be lazy.

Instead, I should have been encouraged to do things myself and become independent while still having people around. But I'm very independent now! 

Out-Of-The-Box Thinking 

Life rarely goes to plan. When things go wrong and require some clever thinking, we appreciate not being the only person trying to problem solve!  


First and foremost, we're people too. We're not just your job. Our lives continue even when you're not around. Respect goes a long way. 


Like anyone, we enjoy being around people we connect with. Otherwise, that makes for an incredibly long shift. If our personalities don't match, it's more than likely our relationship isn't going to work. 


This is a crucial one. Just be patient. Whether we take a long time to communicate or make decisions or the million other things we could be doing, just be patient. For many of us, our bodies just don't go as fast as yours can, so don't rush us. 


As I said above, life never goes to plan. Being flexible as a Support Worker means that as our plans change you continue to support us no matter whether we were originally going out to do something fun or whether we end up staying home watching  TV. 

Attention To Detail

If you can notice something we like or that something needs to be done without us telling you, you're awesome. You'll get brownie points if you can tell something is not quite right just by looking at us or our environment. 

Love Your Job 

We can tell whether you're just here for the money or whether you actually enjoy your job. Loving your job makes the time we spend together a lot more enjoyable. 

I really don't care what your qualifications are, how long you've been in the job or any of that. One of my best Support Workers was a barista who lost her job when the café she was working at closed down. She was as green as anything and was absolutely fantastic. 


Here are some of the qualities that many Participants look for in their Support Workers:

• Reliability 

• Trustworthiness

• Patient

• Knowing when to step up or when to step back 

• Encouragement to be independent 

• Engage in the Participants' interests 

• Compassion 

Great advice! If you're an independent Support Worker, it pays to truly understand the concepts of person-centred support and to step inside a Participants shoes. By learning what other people think a great Support Worker is will help you improve!

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