Meet the Support Worker Reference Group

Members of the group introduce themselves and share their experiences of the group

Meet the Support Worker Reference Group

What is the associate member SWRG? 

The SWRG is made up of a diverse group of associate members who are all support workers, including those that work in therapy/rehab roles too. 

SWRG members work predominantly in an advisory and promotional role, on a voluntary basis, with the CSP professional adviser for support worker development. They contribute to the development and review of CSP approaches, activities and resources that enable the CSP to promote, support and develop the physiotherapy support worker workforce.  

Why have the CSP developed the SWRG? 

Support workers’ roles are central to the delivery of high-quality physiotherapy services. Their contribution to the profession is likely to increase as the entire workforce continues to grow and develop. 

It is critical to the CSP, as the voice of the profession, that support workers’ experiences and views are represented in our work. Without support workers’ input we can’t be sure that our resources, activities and influencing on support workers’ behalf is right.   

The CSP recognises that in order to do this well it needs regular and sustainable support, guidance and advice from support worker members ‘on the ground’. The SWRG provides this by keeping in regular contact with the CSP. There are four times throughout the year the group meets with the CSP. The SWRG members are committed to a two year fixed partnership with the CSP.  

JC Bird Rehabilitation assistant, Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust 

I believe we are part of the team who are often overlooked. There are a lot of inequalities and lack of opportunities from different trusts and health organisations around the country for support workers. 

As someone planning to register as a physio, the CSP has been very helpful for me. The CSP’s website and activities like conferences, networks and signposting to other profession-related organisations provide opportunities for a lot of learning.  
It has given me information about short courses and training that I may be interested in or helpful to my job and development. As a union too, it was also a source of work support when I needed it. 

Louise Wright Senior technician in the community with adults with learning disabilities, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board 

I’ve been a CSP steward for 19 years and I feel I have gained a diverse range of experience over the years. I would like to use my knowledge to help expand and improve the involvement of the membership within the CSP.   

As a group we can highlight to the associate membership that there can be many different opportunities and roles within the CSP and the organisations they work in, and hopefully empower members to explore their diverse knowledge and experience too. 

I looked long and hard before I chose the CSP as the union I wished to join. The important decision factor for joining was that the CSP was a professional body as well as a trade union. I felt that the CSP would be able to understand my working role, protect my employment rights and if I ever needed support, they would be best placed to help and advise me. 

The CSP offers advice, representation, making sure legal rights are enforced at work, public liability insurance cover and legal help. I have access to resources to help improve my learning and development along with other benefits such as discounts on insurance, holidays and many more. 

Since being a CSP steward in my workplace, many other doors opened for me and I have never looked back.  Having a CSP mentor that believed and encouraged me to take up other roles also helped. I felt confident to apply for the independent member’s role in the health board I am working in, working alongside the executives and other independent members on the board. I have been in this role for three years helping to deliver good quality health care and a more inclusive working environment for everyone. 

Chris Richards, Physiotherapy technical instructor Hywel DDA University Health Board at Bronglais General Hospital and Ceredigion community physiotherapy 

I believe strongly in highlighting and developing the role of the support worker as we play a big part in the delivery of physiotherapy. I’m very excited to be working in this CSP volunteer role. We’ve had some Zoom meetings and met one another, everyone is so passionate in this group. It’s truly wonderful to be a part of and I believe the SWRG will be extremely beneficial to the physiotherapy workforce. 

The CSP associate membership is a great way to access resources, support and advice whenever I may need it. I thoroughly enjoy reading Frontline magazine, for the latest research, guidelines and stories of how individuals or other physiotherapy teams overcome challenges and create new innovative ways of working. I also value the ebulletin that the CSP send out on interesting topics. 

Being part of the CSP I feel more connected to the whole physiotherapy workforce of the UK and really enjoy the promotion of making people stronger through exercise and physical activity and of course enabling people to get stronger and safer. I feel the CSP does a fantastic job in reaching out and supporting every single one of its members. The amount of support available is phenomenal whether it’s advice from a steward or needing specific resources which could help in areas of work.

Paula Wheeler, physiotherapy technical instructor, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Trust 

I wanted to have the opportunity to influence the decisions made by the CSP in relation to career progression, training and education of associate members and also to promote the CSP and the benefits they have to offer. 

I really enjoy being part of the group as it enables me to talk and meet likeminded proactive members, and gives me the opportunity to hear views and discuss topics from around the UK and not just locally. I also circulate relevant information to other associate members within my trust. 

Being part of the CSP as an associate member gives me the chance to learn from other support workers, gain access to professional advisers, meet CSP board members and attend funded conferences such as annual representatives conference and Physiotherapy UK. 

I have found being part of the SWRG a rewarding role and would recommend associate members to become involved to further develop and influence future CSP corporate strategy. 

Alison Hamilton, physiotherapy assistant practitioner, Edinburgh Community Physiotherapy Service musculoskeletal outpatients 

I had previously been a member of the CSP associate committee. I’ve attended several CSP meetings in London which helped develop my understanding of the CSP and how CSP members can help to influence change. 

Through my involvement in the associates committee I felt I could help associate members have a voice and work with the CSP to influence decisions. The experience has helped me both professionally and personally. My confidence has grown and I have a better understanding of physiotherapy issues. 

Within the SWRG, I feel we can raise the associate member profile further and help influence all members into feeling they are valued and informed.  

The CSP has always made me feel I am a valued and important member of the physiotherapy profession. I feel protected and I know if I was to have any workplace issues I have the CSP’s support to help deal with them. I have been to several conferences that I would not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend. I was fortunate to attend the annual representatives conference in 2018. This is where motions are debated and voted for or against.  

Steve Huckstep, therapy assistant practitioner (major trauma), Birmingham Children’s Hospital 

I saw an opportunity to network with and hopefully help other physiotherapy assistants with their careers, and to help those interested in becoming a physiotherapy assistant. I see being a physiotherapy assistant as an amazing and rewarding experience and would recommend it to people keen to help others. 

I hope that the SWRG will be able to make associate membership with the CSP more meaningful to current members and more attractive to non-members. 

I feel I have already benefited from being an associate member because I have met so many inspiring physio assistants from across the country, and have been able to attend Physiotherapy UK, which was a great learning experience. My career has progressed due to being a member and I feel I have grown as a person. 

I do feel that you will gain more from membership by being active within the CSP – being vocal and visual with anything that interests you – and by putting yourself outside of your comfort zone. I think that associate membership is particularly useful for PDR guidance/career progression. Being able to access support and advice from CSP stewards, and those looking to potentially go on to study physiotherapy will also benefit as the CSP will support your application. 

John Hayes, therapy assistant practitioner, urgent care team, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth 

My role covers three different short stay wards and the emergency department. My primary duty is to assess patients and make a discharge plan. 

I wanted to ensure the support workforce are recognised for their vital contribution to physiotherapy. I want to challenge the attitude which I have heard in my workplace of, ‘they are only a band 3.’ 

The CSP associate membership provides us all with the security of representation if required. There is also a wealth of resources on CPD and more recently updates on Coronavirus. I have found these particularly useful in clarifying details in these uncertain times. I really appreciate the regular communication the CSP send out to engage with members and keeping me informed of developments too. 

I personally have aspirations to progress and become a chartered physiotherapist and I feel I will get the most updates on areas like the apprenticeships being a CSP member. 

Polly Hornby, physiotherapy assistant, Ysbyty Gwynedd,Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board 

I have a split post working as a physiotherapy assistant. Nearly half of my hours are at band 3 PTA in a community hospital specialising in rehabilitation and complex discharge planning. My other post is at band 4 level and is based on  an acute stroke ward. 

I wanted the chance to network with other associate members and improve my knowledge. I have been able to do this though having access to Frontline magazine and areas of the CSP website such as iCSP to network with others. I enjoy my associate membership because it increases my knowledge and develops ideas as well as feeling part of a team.  

My associate CSP membership supports me with access to CSP reps, including their advice, support and representation with any issues I may have at work. 

Robert Minter, physiotherapy assistant, Hull University Teaching Hospitals at Hull Royal Infirmary 

I work in the physiotherapy outpatients department in a role that I have been in for five years, during this time my title has not changed but my role has changed many times over the years especially now with the current Covid-19 pandemic. 

I wanted to help increase CSP associate membership within my trust, to show how support workers can be deployed within different areas of physiotherapy and how this differs from trust to trust. I also wanted to be a voice for support workers to show what brilliant work we are capable of and try and challenge some the views and myths that have appeared over the years. 

Being a CSP associate member shows that being a support worker means that I am still valued by my professional body for the work and duties I perform. 

I enjoy being part of the CSP: 

  • to communicate with other professionals and support workers via the online networks  
  • to attend the Physiotherapy UK conferences to listen to the sessions, gain new knowledge and CPD 
  • to socialise and network with other CSP members, visit the exhibitions for the newest equipment and the odd freebie! 

My associate membership supports me as I am able to contact and discuss any issues with CSP advisers and have workplace representation should the need arise. I also ask questions on the iCSP networks to get answers from fellow associates and physios. 

Christie Devon, therapy assistant practitioner, Peterborough City Hospital 

I wanted to get involved as I am passionate about the role of the support worker and wanted to assist in promoting the role and the work we do as a workforce. 

I was previously a member of Unison and while they are a good generalised union and have helped me on a a couple of occasions in the past, the CSP has more to offer. 

The CSP understands the role of a support worker and can offer more than just union advice.  I have access to various forums on the website which helps my learning and development. 

It’s also good to know that the CSP are keen to increase people’s knowledge and understanding of the support worker role. The more support workers we can get involved in the CSP, the more we can spread the word! 

Steve Robertson, support worker, acute respiratory, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust 

The CSP associate membership has given me a sense of belonging to an organisation that has more than100 years of experience in supporting the physiotherapy workforce. Initially it was for a sense of security within my career, for representation and support if  I needed it. I also enjoyed finding out about the current affairs and campaigns within our industry, the training and so much more. 

Belonging to the CSP gives me an opportunity to be a voice, within my work. I felt support workers were unrecognised for the amount of work and knowledge they did and had. 

There was this glass ceiling to progression and you could not progress in the career unless you went to university and became a chartered physiotherapist. I felt this was unfair as some support workers had been doing their jobs for 15 years plus but were still at a band 4 level with no pay increases or recognised status. They were clearly showing leadership skills, workplace knowledge and values, as well as CPD within their workplace. I wanted to be a voice for support workers and I also helped with the campaign to develop a career path in its own right for support workers. 

CSP professional adviser Claire Fordham said:  ‘The start of our work together was not quite as we planned – the pandemic has meant we have not been able to hold meetings and training for the group in the way we wanted. 

We have though been meeting via Zoom every month since April. 

The group are so engaged with the work of the CSP and really have become our experts on the ground. 

All the work we have been doing and new resources we have developed have had their oversight; they provide really helpful and authentic feedback and ideas. 

Watch this space 

The SWRG are developing a CSP associates/support workers Facebook group. Details of how to join will be announced shortly. 

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