FOR most of us, the closest we’ll ever get to a crime scene is by watching our favourite TV drama – but for NEAS employee Steven Mutungwazi, it was his reality for more than five years. 

Steven, originally from Zimbabwe, studied applied biology and biochemistry at university and went on to work for the local police force as a forensic scientist for a number of years. 

However, life these days looks drastically different for Steven, having moved 5,000 miles from home and embarked on a very different career path.

Since 2019, Steven and his family have been living in the North-east of England and in February 2021 he joined the North East Autism Society as a Care Support Assistant.

While Steven had no formal care experience when he started with the Society, one of his cousins is autistic, which he says helped prepare him for the role as he was already aware of autism and other forms of neurodiversity.

Steven also knew a number of existing NEAS employees, adding: “They told me how nice a place NEAS was to work and how welcoming the working environment is – and I have found that to be true.”

Despite his lack of direct experience, it seems Steven found his calling as, after just five months the 32-year-old was promoted to Team Leader at our Redewood Supported Living home in Newcastle.

He now oversees a team of staff who support two of our adults, helping them to live safely and as independently as possible in a home of their own and to access the local community.

The best thing about the job is the satisfaction you feel when the adults get you, and you know you are friends. And when you can see the difference you are making to the adults’ lives.

He adds: “It wasn’t always easy getting there, but we have a great relationship now. I have been working on developing the relationship I have with the lads’ families too. They know they can contact me any time they want and I try to make them feel as comfortable as possible.”

While Steven’s two careers may be poles apart, he says he brought with him a number of transferrable skills that have helped him to succeed at NEAS. 

“I’d say one of the skills that helped me to do well in this job is being observant. The small details really do matter,” Steven says. “Team work is also massively important, as you can’t do this job alone.

I’m very lucky to have a team at Redewood who all work well together. When everyone chips in and helps each other it, it makes all the difference.

Steven also praises the Society’s five-day induction programme, which aims to equip new starters with the necessary knowledge and understanding to carry out their duties – whether that is within our care or education services – to a high standard. 

“The Society’s induction process is very, very good – it’s eye opening,” he adds. “I would say I felt well equipped for the job, but there are some things you do have to learn for yourself once you’re in your place of work and getting to know the individuals you will be supporting.”

Asked what his advice would be to anyone considering a career with the North East Autism Society, Steven adds: “I would say to people that they need to be patient, it doesn’t happen overnight. And you need to have passion for the job as it can be quite demanding at times.

“But if you are passionate and patient, then the understanding will follow.”

“I would say I have definitely found the right job and I am happy,” he adds. “But I would like to progress further within NEAS. I love to challenge myself.”

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