Support Worker Geoff Hawken is preparing to celebrate a milestone anniversary this year, having worked for two and a half decades at national learning disability charity Hft.
Geoff, 72, is part of a team that provides care and support to adults with learning disabilities and autism at Hft’s residential service, Valley View Farm in Bodmin, enabling the people they support to live the best life possible.
Geoff said: “
I feel proud of what I’ve achieved in my caring career. Supporting people with different needs means I have learned to become more understanding, and more patient as a person.
Prior to taking up his role at Hft, Geoff worked for many years at his family business as a coal merchant. Following the decline of the coal industry in the early 90s, Geoff took on various jobs to keep busy, often working more than one job at a time.
During this time Geoff was also a volunteer at ‘The Gateway Club’ in Wadebridge, which was a social club for people with learning disabilities. Some of the people who were supported by Hft in Cornwall came to the club to socialise, which is how Geoff learned about the charity.
Having initially worked at Hft part time alongside his other jobs, Geoff found that being a support worker was what gave him the biggest sense of achievement, and decided to make it his full-time job.
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Throughout his career, Geoff has learned the value of treating each person as an individual, and speaks fondly of building relationships with every person he supports. He said:
Getting to know each person is really important. You need to learn what makes each person happy and what makes them anxious. I like to focus on their strengths and their positive traits. Humour is also very important in my job. It helps to build a rapport with the people I support. We laugh a lot.
Geoff says that the best part of his job is helping people he supports to achieve their goals and that support workers can bring their own individual strengths to the job. For Geoff, it’s his keen interest in sport and fitness. A former rugby player for the Wadebridge Camels, Geoff is still very involved in the club, now acting as treasurer. He is also a keen cyclist and a member of a group of fellow electric bike enthusiasts who have jokingly named themselves ‘The Old Codgers’ Bike Club’! Geoff’s active lifestyle meant that he could really connect with a young person with a learning disability who had recently transitioned into adult services and was finding his new routine a bit challenging.
I found out that one of the people we support used to love swimming when he was in school but it was impossible for him to go alone as he required a lot of support. So we came up with a plan to go swimming together once a week. We set a goal of swimming 24 lengths each and soon he was swimming up and down the pool with a huge smile on his face. He has a very unique way of swimming which causes a huge amount of splashing. I think he secretly finds it very funny to splash people as he swims past!
One event from his career that stands out in Geoff’s mind is meeting HRH The Princess Royal, when she opened Hft’s Rendle House, part of Valley View Farm, in Cornwall in 2003. Another highlight was his many years as chair of his service’s Staff Consultancy Group, where Geoff used the opportunity to learn more about the social care sector, and the challenges it faces.
Asked if he had any advice for those considering a career as a support worker, Geoff said:
Being a support worker is hard work with lots of responsibility, but it’s also a very important job and really enjoyable. You can really make a big difference to the people you support, you can actually change lives.
Angela Gibbons, Registered Cluster Manager for Hft Cornwall said:
Geoff is a wonderful member of staff who brings laughter and light heartedness to the shift and to his role. He takes an interest in each individual he supports and opens up possibilities for them to achieve their goals. His approach is kind and humorous all the time. He is a great team player and is well liked by all of our supported people and staff. We just wish we could clone him!
Hft are currently recruiting support workers in Cornwall. To search for vacancies please visit the website: Hft Careers
Notes to editors
Hft is a national charity that creatively supports more than 2,200 adults with learning disabilities across England and Wales to live the best life possible. Services range from residential care to supporting people to live independently in their own homes – from a few hours a week to 24 hours a day. Hft also helps people with learning disabilities to take part in daily activities, make friends and develop relationships and to find work.
Established in 1962, Hft is funded in two ways: through local authorities, who fund vital support services, but also through donors, supporters and volunteers who enable us to find new ways to help more people to thrive rather than just get by.
For more information about Hft please visit www.hft.org.uk