Support workers providing crucial support

At a crucial and exciting time for support workers in physiotherapy, there are more reasons than ever to join the CSP as associate members

Lorraine Allchurch: I wanted allegiance to a union (image John Harris)

In this special feature, we showcase three active associate members, all involved in local professional opportunities, who tell us what CSP membership has done for them.

A support worker is someone who provides care under the direction of registered or qualified allied health professionals (AHPs) through delegation and appropriate supervision. They can be profession-specific, for example supporting physiotherapy, or they can work across professions supporting both physiotherapy and occupational therapy, and they can join the CSP as an associate member and benefit from the professional support, advice, insight and development that membership offers.

The opportunities for support workers of CSP associate membership include:

  • To be leading voices in the CSP as we seek to influence and shape development for the profession
  • To be represented in the workplace as services change and grow
  • To access CPD opportunities through involvement with country, regional and professional networks
  • To use opportunities to work with the CSP to develop leadership and influencing skills and enhance personal development.

Paula Wheeler, Barbara Duffy, and Lorraine Allchurch are just three of the increasing number of associate members. They share with Frontline their experiences and details of the different roles they play.

Health and safety rep

Paula Wheeler is a band 5 physiotherapy technical instructor who works in neuro/complex rehab wards, treating stroke patients and people recovering from cardiovascular surgery, at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital NHS Trust.

Paula joined the CSP 19 years ago.

‘After speaking with my local rep, I decided that CSP would be best able to meet my needs as they had a greater understanding of the therapy assistant role.’

She hadn’t known that she could join the CSP. ‘Before I’d spoken to my colleague and the rep, I’d assumed CSP membership was only for registered physiotherapists.’

Paula explains what she values most about her CSP membership and the membership benefits: ‘The CSP understands the role of therapy assistants and that helped us when we recently went through an organisational change, which was really very daunting. The support we received from our local CSP rep really helped and reassured us that all the correct policies and procedures were being followed.’

‘Being part of the CSP has also given me the confidence to become a health and safety rep and I am currently in my fifth year in this role.’

CSP steward

Barbara Duffy has recently taken up the role of CSP steward in her organisation, and had been a member of other unions before joining the CSP.

‘For people like me it’s very important that you’re in a union, ‘she says.

‘Registered physios are more likely to be CSP members, but because of the nature of being a physio instructor or assistant you might change job roles. Associate membership of the CSP is great value. There’s a fantastic team behind you at the CSP who you can get hold of when you need to, which is important. Some organisations are so large it’s not always easy to get someone local. It seems staff are always available.

‘A lot of people aren’t in a union because they haven’t been asked for one reason or another. You are safeguarding yourself by being in the union. You just don’t know what might happen and when you need the help and support from a steward. It’s nice to know that you have a shoulder to lean on.’

Regional network member

Lorraine Allchurch joined the CSP nine years ago when she stepped up from a band 3 therapy assistant role to a band 4 therapy practitioner. Lorraine works in a generic role, undertaking a combination of physiotherapy and occupational therapy tasks and responsibilities. Her manager is an occupational therapist, but Lorraine is eligible for CSP membership due to the physiotherapy element of her role, which can be delegated by any registered health care professional.

‘I wanted some allegiance to a union and to a professional body as well, which made me look towards the CSP, which is highly respected. That drew me to it,’ she says.

Lorraine has recently been involved in a CSP short-life working group reviewing the society’s Annual Representative Conference (ARC).

Being part of the ARC review group has given Lorraine the confidence to submit a motion to this year’s conference and approach her local regional network to become a member.

One of the first regional network meetings in the West Midlands that Lorraine will attend is a first contact practitioner learning event, sponsored by the CSP. Lorraine will be helping the committee at this event and has been welcomed to the network. Before she became involved, she questioned the relevance of this type of event to her - given that the clear focus on developing these posts and services locally is for registered physiotherapists.

Claire Fordham, professional adviser who leads on support workers in the CSP, says: ‘Support workers are part of the fabric of our profession, and we could not grow and deliver our services without them. Every development in the profession has a significance for the work and role of support workers. It is not true to say that learning events and CPD resources targeted at registered physiotherapists are not relevant for associate members, but in the past we could have been better at promoting that relevance.’

Claire is committed to seeing this change in the CSP. ‘This year we are continuing our work to explore how we can best meet the needs of our associate members through a variety of resources, approaches and opportunities.’

Jim Fahie, assistant director for employment relations and union services at the CSP, says support workers are valued members of the CSP who bring a wealth of knowledge and skills as well as increasing the diversity of the society.

‘If you work with a support worker, ask them to join the CSP, when you have a new member of staff or a locum, ask them if they are a member of the CSP, and if not, ask them to join.

‘This one question, “Will you join the CSP?” can help grow our influence as the voice of physiotherapy.

‘You not only help increase our voice, but you also increase our influence and help make the physiotherapy profession stronger, which in turn benefits your patients who can access and receive their care and rehabilitation from CSP members all across the UK.

‘It’s essential that we all play our part in championing the role and value of support workers and engaging them in the work of the CSP.’ 

What can you do?

  • Ask a support worker to join the CSP. Many support workers don’t know they can join the CSP.
  • Start a conversation about the CSP with a non-member support worker, and if they are not already a member of another union, show them this article and signpost them to join us
  • Tell associate members about the opportunities that are available in their nation and regional networks.  
  • If you are an associate member, consider joining your nation or regional network for CPD and leadership opportunities, networking, engagement and support. You will receive a warm welcome and can be influential in shaping learning and development events.
  • Encourage an associate member to be a workplace representative.  
  • Associate members can become stewards or health and safety reps, access CSP training and build their leadership skills. 

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