My Dream Job – Mark Humphreys, Team Leader, Alternative Futures Group

For the last 7 years, Mark has been supporting people with complex needs and particularly those with autism.

Prior to joining Alternative Futures Group 18 months ago, Mark worked in a residential service which specialised in care pathways which involved supporting people from secure hospitals into the community with the hope of enabling them to become in control of their lives.

A world where people control their lives is AFG’s clear vision for the people it supports and Mark’s work for the charity very much focuses on people with autism. Mark is also clear about his vocation in life, despite his relatively young age:

“I’ve always worked on the basis of treating people how I would want to be treated myself.

“I have worked with people right across the autistic spectrum and have had great success with people via person centred planning, being persistent and always supporting people holistically.

“I have had copious amounts of training about autism including a certificate I gained after studying at Brighton University. However the most powerful training I have had is listening to people who are on the spectrum and listening to how their autism impacts their lives and how they have learnt to cope.”

Since the age of 21, as a youth worker, Mark has always been interested in supporting people. His first experience with autism was after a child he was working with was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.

“It was this that really sparked my interest in autism which I find fascinating. An average day varies depending on the individual. But mostly days need to be very structured days, almost regimental. Every day can be different and every day is rewarding, particularly when it is clear that the individual is developing their skills and being in control of their life.”

With every single person Mark supports requiring different needs it can be a constant challenge. However the fact no two days are the same is a challenge Mark is not afraid to rise to:

“We have to be constantly motivated and have to be innovative almost at the click of the finger. The difference between supporting people with autism to other supported living services is ensuring first and foremost that the environment is absolutely right for that individual. This job is as hard or as easy as you want to make it. If you get the basics right and treat people as individuals then you won’t go far wrong!

“I love my job because it is very rewarding. It makes me realise how lucky I am which motivates me to ensure that people who have difficulties get the right support.”

At 28, Mark is at the start of what he hopes will be a long and successful career supporting people with complex needs. Despite his he says there have already been some real highlights:

“My proudest moment was helping a man in Halton get the right support enabling him to move house. It took a lot of person centred planning, recruitment and staff training and he is now in an environment more conducive to his needs. He is accessing the community on a regular basis and attending a day service twice a week. He is also much happier in himself and has even been on holiday. He is now much more in control of his life which is what it’s all about.”

Mark admits he is learning on a daily basis both from his colleagues and the people he supports and would like to do more training and work his way up the organisation.

“I’m keen to do more training and become an autism lead at AFG. This involves providing training and going into services to work with staff teams to look at the support being provided and ensuring as an organisation we are providing best practice and delivering high quality, person centred support.”