Support worker celebrates 25 years at learning disability charity

BARBARA Godwin, a 76-year-old support worker from Takeley near Bishop’s Stortford, is celebrating a milestone 25th work anniversary at learning disability charity Hft.

Barbara, who supports adults with learning disabilities to live the best life possible, credits being able to enrich the lives of the people she helps and the flexibility of her organisation as the reasons behind her many years of service – and she’s hoping to stay at the charity for the foreseeable future.

After working in various finance roles, Barbara entered support work unexpectedly when she got talking to adults with learning disabilities locally. She initially worked on an on-call basis in the evenings and then applied to become a support worker at Hft when she moved to Hertfordshire.

Fostering strong relationships with people she supports has been crucial to Barbara, who has helped one man, Michael, since beginning work at Hft. She’s watched his confidence and independence grow over the years, supporting Michael’s move from residential accommodation to shared supported living and now to his own tenancy.

Reflecting on her anniversary, Barbara said:

“I absolutely love my job and have met so many brilliant people over the last 25 years. My greatest achievement has been helping the people I support to achieve their goals and learn to do new things. For example, during my career I’ve taught lots of people to use public transport independently which makes such a difference, allowing them to go where they want to go and boosting their confidence enormously.

“Support work isn’t always a career people consider, but I would encourage anyone thinking about it to go for it. You just need to be patient, caring, and understanding, as well as sympathetic and empathetic. When you really get to know the people you support and build up a great relationship you can change someone’s life.”

Other highlights of Barbara’s 25 years as a support worker include accompanying a young man with a passion for football to attend a Milton Keynes Dons match in 2008, where he was surprised with a once in a lifetime breakfast with the team and their manager.

Local Service Manager Sylwia Baginska said: 

“Long-serving support workers are the bedrock of what we do at Hft, and Barbara is a shining example to the next generation of support staff. Her dedication and commitment, as well as her experience and knowledge of support work, are absolutely priceless. She’s developed extremely valuable relationships with people we support and their families, and always brings out the best in people.”

As for the future, Barbara says she’s unlikely to retire any time soon. Over the years, she’s reduced her hours and now works one day a week. She says she’ll continue to volunteer for Hft should she one day retire, saying: “I know that I would miss it so much if I didn’t do it.”