Today I was speaking with a woman who has been living with a disability and trying to get out of a troubling situation. The woman was having difficulties expressing her independence around her family; specifically, she had been fighting with her family for years about who would support her and under what conditions. Her story was hard to hear, especially the parts where she would be stuck with an abusive support worker, not be believed by her loved ones, and be denied a say in her own support. Fighting tears, the woman said she felt she had nobody to talk to about her situation and very little hope for the next support worker.
This experience is just one example of a common problem for people with disabilities. In my own experience, I have found it very obvious when a support worker is working with me to receive a pay cheque, or when they sincerely care about the people that they work with. There is an alarming lack of quality support when people hire support workers who are merely working to clock in their hours; these people come in (rarely on time) and work the required hours, but spend little time getting to know who you truly are and what you care about. Additionally, they may be more inclined to do what they want to do, such as leaving to run their own errands for hours or making the person join them against their will. Quality support is important because it can lead to abusive or harmful situations for people who don't have 100% autonomy or say in their lives.
Instead, quality support first involves a support worker working for people with disabilities because they truly care about the people whom they work with. When this is present, support workers will go out of their way to get to know the person beyond their disability. They are supports, friends, family, and generally people who you can turn to whenever you need to. These people will go out of their way to make sure your goals and interests come before anything else. We definitely need more people like this in the social services sector to ensure people with disabilities are being advocated for and not oppressed.