In conversation with Ben McIntosh

Posted on 31/01/2022

Since Apprenticeship Careers Australia partnered with TikTok star Ben McIntosh, he's been able to share a world of insights into the everyday life of support work to those considering a career in the sector.

Now we've been given the opportunity to dive deeper with Ben as he talks about the importance of the work and just how equally fulfilling it can be.

How long have you been a disability support worker?
I have been a disability support worker for just over a year now, however, I’ve sort of been in the role in some respect since my sister, Grace, was born. Aiding in her development and growth has really put me in a good position to adapt to it as my employment quickly.

Why did you decide to embark on this journey to become a support worker?
I never really decided to become a support worker funnily enough. Grace’s boyfriend at the time needed a support worker for one shift and I did it and just fell in love with it.

What have you gained and learned from being a disability support worker?
I think the major thing I’ve gained since becoming a support worker is a more positive work ethic when it comes to working as well as a greater appreciation for everyone around me. You never know what someone is going through.

Since embarking on this journey, would you say this career has changed you as a person? If yes, how?
I honestly don’t think this career has changed me much. I’ve always had a very good relationship with Grace and her friends and I believe my personality didn’t change when all of a sudden I was getting paid for it.

In your opinion, how important is it to have more people working in this industry?
The importance of having more people work in the field of disability support cannot be undervalued. There are tens of thousands of people in need of support and the fact that they don’t have access to them is awful. These are people that just want to live their life to the fullest and need someone to help them do it.

What aspects of this job do you think would get people to choose this career path?
Having the ability to see someone progress directly from your input is very rewarding. These progressions can range in a multitude of ways including social and physical development as well as the improvement of general life skills such as cooking and cleaning. 

Each day can be vastly different from the previous one, ensuring that you won’t ever be complacent in where you are. If you value a career that keeps you on your toes and is very fulfilling – support work is for you.

Careers in Healthcare are predominantly taken up by women. What more can be done to encourage more men into the workforce, specifically disability and support work?
I think the key to getting more men involved in the field is really highlighting how much they’re needed. Families are screaming out for good quality supports for their dependants and many would prefer having a male mentor who can be a positive influence for their loved one.

What advice would you give to someone considering this career?
I make this sound like such a fun career, and it really is.  However, if you aren’t a very patient person, you are going to struggle. If you’re willing to just roll with whatever comes your way, you’ll be fine. 

Don’t be dismayed if the client isn’t receptive to you right off the bat either. 
After all, how would you feel if you were just assigned someone to take care of you. Let time pass and show that they can trust you. Once they do, it’ll get easier for you and you’ll enjoy it more.

You’ve done a lot of amazing things in this career, what was the most memorable to you?
What’s been the most memorable for sure is the trip to Cairns with Zac. Five nights away, snorkelling, seeing the rainforest, working on his cooking skills, eating out at restaurants to practice his confidence ordering, and ultimately seeing him blossom when he was pushed out of his comfort zone. What’s not to like?

In your opinion, what qualities make a good support worker?
There are a multitude of traits that make up a good support worker. However, the traits that I think are most important are patience and being empathetic. Patience because there are times where you will have to listen to Fireflies by Owl City 13 times in two hours or have someone ask you the same question repeatedly. You’re going to have to be able to deal with that on an almost daily basis. 

Clients just want to know the structure of the day usually so they can prepare for it mentally so it’s always a good idea to go over what you’re doing that day when you first see them. Empathetic, because you will just need to be there for them. You may not know what to say or what to do, they may not even know how to communicate how they’re feeling. 

But if you understand that they just need someone to feel safe around, you’re going to be okay. Just show that you care and just want what’s best for them.

What is the most important responsibility of a disability support worker?
The most important responsibility of a disability support work is ensuring your client’s safety and happiness.

What are some of the challenges you have faced as a support worker?
I think the biggest challenge for any support worker can be understanding behaviour and what that behaviour is ultimately communicating to you. Obviously, a scream or anything of the like can be a displeasure, but not all clients communicate the same way or are even able to verbalise how they’re feeling. 

There may be a learning curve with each client and that I think is the biggest challenge – finding an effective way to communicate with each of them.

Curious about a rewarding career in disability support?

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