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Julia Alexander is a community support worker service manager at Headway East London, a charity that works with over 650 brain injury survivors and their families each year, offering a range of specialist services and support for adults with a range of complex needs.

Working across a total of 13 boroughs, the charity is dedicated to improving the prospects of brain injury survivors; helping them discover roles that improve self-esteem and contribute to the wider community.

Julia’s role begins when a patient is discharged from hospital or rehabilitation and starts their new life in an adapted home. Here, we speak to Julia to gain an insight into her role and the services of Headway East London.

Can you tell us how the service came about?

“Absolutely! We could see that whilst some people really benefit from their days at Headway East London, they may also need some support in their homes or out in the community. Others might not suit or enjoy the busy environment of our day centre, and would prefer to work one-to-one.

“We wanted to develop a service that was led by our clients and provided empowerment and support when they needed it most. For example, one lady really wanted to cook for her children again, so her support worker helped her to plan a recipe, shop for the ingredients and then cook the family’s meal.

“Loss of roles in the family and community are huge things to contend with, and our work is about improving people’s overall wellbeing and focusing on what they can do, not what they can’t.”

What happens during a support work session?

“Each session is tailored to the client’s individual needs and we offer a range of activities from the practical to providing friendship and encouragement. For people who live alone or feel disengaged from family or friends, their support worker is a valuable friend to get them out and about, whether that’s for a coffee or a friendly face when joining a new group.”

What’s the best thing about working for Headway East London?

“It’s such a great place to work and I get so much support. It’s a fantastic team; not just the support workers but also our other colleagues who help make our job that little bit easier. It’s so rewarding when you can really see the benefits of our service – like the happy tears of clients when they get their benefits reinstated and they finally have what they deserve, or seeing people who have been really isolated now involved in community groups or volunteering. Brain injury can affect people for the rest of their lives, so the support offered needs to reflect that. I’m proud that Headway East London shares this view too, and excited to see where the service goes next.”

What did you do before this?

“My background is as a social worker – I’ve always worked for charities and community services but previously it was within criminal and youth justice. My last job in Ireland was identifying and providing youth mentoring to these individuals, so that aspect of community support was similar. And actually, quite a few of the young offenders had a brain injury – although that wasn’t the focus of our work. I’m used to supporting people who are lone working and I like roles that empower and enable people to live their life as independently as possible. I can’t imagine finding a more fitting job right now.”

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