Joining the support team at a home where people are profoundly deaf without knowing British Sign Language (BSL) could seem a little daunting. Yet when everyone is willing to pitch in with communication it needn’t be a barrier, as Mia Mitchell-Phillips and those around her have proved.
Mia joined Wilbury Gardens aged 18, having left college without knowing what she wanted to do next. This is her first full-time job, and from day one she impressed her fellow team members with her enthusiasm, commitment, and sheer joy at her new role.
“Even when I first heard about becoming a Support Worker, I was excited and couldn’t wait to find out more. I have fond memories of visiting my grandmother in a care home as a child. It was the highlight of my week!
“I visited Wilbury Gardens before starting work. It was an opportunity to talk through everything expected of me with Sandra the manager and to meet a couple of people we support,” explains Mia.
She quickly learned the BSL alphabet so that she could spell out words to people supported at the home, plus D/deaf team members. “A couple of people we support taught me some BSL words and I was soon able to ask how to say some things,” she says.
“Most people are quite good at lip reading and able to see what I was saying, then show me the sign for it. They like to tell me what’s right,” laughs Mia, who will shortly be taking her BSL Level 1 qualification.
“I always wanted to learn another language but struggled with French and Spanish at school. As I work here every day, I have just picked up BSL. I am loving learning it and everyone is loving teaching me,” she adds.
Newcomer of the Year
Mia’s fun energy is felt by both those she supports and team members. Her knack of engaging those who have historically struggled with ‘joining in’ has made a noticeable difference. Team members were so impressed with her can-do approach and progress just a few months into the role that they nominated her for the ‘Newcomer of the Year’ Heroes Award 2023, and she won!
“As soon as I started, I knew this was not a job but a career for me. I absolutely love it. I studied psychology at college and learned quite a lot about mental health. It means that I am also able to talk to people we support about how they are feeling.”
Embracing every aspect of being a Support Worker, Mia loves cooking and organising other activities at Wilbury Gardens. She also enjoys supporting people to become active members in their community and to appointments, as well as learning about medication and accurate record keeping. Her innate ability to understand people has helped her to adjust her approach depending on who she is supporting, resulting in positive outcomes. Encouraging independence, she naturally does things with people as opposed to for them.
What’s the best thing about Mia’s job? Without hesitation, she answers “It’s definitely the people. I’ve built connections with everyone, and I wouldn’t change them for anything.”
Already training to be a key worker, Mia has an eye on the career ladder, yet is very happy with her current position. “I love where I am now. I want to be confident enough to take on the role of key worker when I’m ready,” she says.
Sandra Whittington, Mia’s Home Manager says: “This is Mia’s first step on her journey and my what an impact she has made in the short time she has been here. She brings such a positive energy and comes with a smile on her face every day. She is an inspiration to us all. Mia has shown herself to be an amazing team player who values those she supports and works with, and the feeling is mutual.
“She unwaveringly demonstrates a willingness to learn and grow. She is refreshing, putting the people living in the home first. She actively encourages independence at every turn and recognises the importance of giving people a voice.
“Mia is exactly the type of person the care sector needs to attract and retain. She is on an exciting journey, and there is no limit to what she could achieve with the right support and encouragement. It is a pleasure to work with her on her first steps.”