After extensive work and research in 2001, mental health and social care professionals realised that people with mental health issues and learning disabilities would greatly benefit from having someone who could provide them with practical support and care outside of health facilities. These people became known at STRs – Support, Time, and Recovery Workers – and have become a crucial part of mental health care both inside and outside of the NHS.
If you’ve ever been a carer, been cared for, or are simply interested in helping those with mental health issues and learning disabilities, here’s everything you need to know about becoming an STR.
What Does a Recovery Worker Do?
An STR’s job is to aid people with mental health issues, learning disabilities, or those who have committed offences and are problematic alcohol or drugs users, in their recovery or to help them establish means of independent living.
Rather than the usual appointment or facility-based healthcare, an STR’s role is to provide practical support, care and companionship, as well as assessing a service user’s needs, planning support programmes, writing reports, and liaising with their friends and family. There might also be a requirement to perform interventions and drug tests, while offering advice and support to aid the recovery process.
What Sort of People Will I Be Working With?
As part of Criminal Justice Liaison and Diversion teams, STRs will very often be working with people who have other issues in their life besides mental health or learning disabilities.
You might find yourself helping someone who is homeless, has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, or someone whose challenging behaviour has led to them being arrested or imprisoned.
What are the Working Conditions Like?
As a recovery worker, you will usually find yourself visiting service users, whether that’s in their own homes or in hospitals, courts, or police stations.
You will often need to meet with other care professionals, such as mental health nurses or social workers, as well as police officers, housing support officers and other legal or social professionals.
Due to the nature of the work, you may find yourself working shifts, which can involve unsociable hours, with an average working time of around 37.5 hours a week.
If you work for the NHS, your salary will be calculated using the Agenda for Change system; you would normally start on Band 3 with the opportunity to move to Band 4 and higher with experience.
What Qualifications Do I Need to Become an STR?
The good news is that there are many different routes into recovery work, with no specific set requirements. Some employers may ask for qualifications up to GCSE level while others will require or accept other healthcare qualifications.
Very often, experience of mental health services – either paid, voluntary, or personal – will stand you in good stead for a position. You will also need to have good literacy and numeracy skills for the organisational and administrative parts of the job.
Most often you will be able to take part in ongoing training throughout your career with the opportunity to gain further qualifications in mental health and the opportunity to progress to assistant practitioner, mental health nurse, or other roles in psychological therapy.
What Sort of Person Do I Need to Be?
STR work can be extremely tough as you will often find yourself working with people with challenging behaviour or who find themselves in difficult or upsetting circumstances.
In order to help people to the best of your ability you will need to be resilient, calm under pressure, and understanding and accepting of the people you work with. You will also need to have excellent communication and listening skills, as well as being a motivational and positive person who can help service users change their lives for the better.