Growing trust, confidence and independence

Posted on: 27th August 2015

Barry Sharples is a support worker with a background in special needs teaching and a love of gardening. He talks to us about his experience as a support worker.

What led you to becoming a support worker?

I used to be the head teacher at a residential special school, so I’ve worked with children with disabilities and complex needs for a long time. After leaving the teaching profession I worked at a respite centre in Chorley. It was here that I really got to know Paddy and his family well, though I’d known him since he was about 10. I started working with Paddy as a support worker about 4 ½ years ago, when his mother approached me about it.

How have you integrated your love of gardening into your role?

I introduced Paddy to gardening at the respite centre, as there was a small garden that I encouraged residents and visitors to get involved with. We soon exhausted the potential of the space we had available to us though. Luckily, through the local authority, we were granted the use of some space in the garden at Astley Hall – a large growing area and a raised bed. As a community project it worked really well – the garden flourished and we soon ended up taking on the entire garden.

About 6 years ago the National Lottery granted funds to the local authority for us to restore the garden to its former glory. As a result, the Astley Walled Gardeners won a RHS Britain in Bloom ‘Outstanding’ award in the neighbourhood category.

What other activities do you support Paddy with?

Paddy has been at a residential college, so he is away during term time. He has helped us out in the garden a lot during school holidays. He has mild cerebral palsy and associated physical problems, e.g. balance can be an issue. I also support him to get out and take part in other activities such as watching football and rugby. He loves the interaction with other fans. I took him to the ‘Magic Weekend’ of Rugby in Newcastle at the end of May, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

He’ll be leaving college very soon and living with his parents for a few months while adaptations are made to his own home – his goal is to live independently (with support) so I’ll continue to support him to achieve this.

What is your favourite thing about being a support worker?

I’ve really enjoyed helping Paddy to interact with other people in the community and seeing him flourish over time. He really enjoys coming to the gardens at weekends and mixing with the other volunteers – he’s made some real friends there.

What advice would you give to other support workers?

Find out what your client is interested in and encourage them to take part in activities around their interests. Try to give them their independence – I try to stand back quite a bit and Paddy really appreciates that.