I started my career in this sector as a care assistant in a care home. I wanted a job that would fit around my life and my family, but that would also keep me engaged. I soon became really passionate about the work I was doing and was keen to progress. I got promoted to Team Leader which I loved, and which propelled me to move forward again.
My next position was in domiciliary care services. From there, I transitioned to a service which was aiming to develop the offering for the Chinese community in Manchester. I was given a translator and an admin team and was involved in setting up this service – the skills I learnt there have gone a long way in helping me in my current role.
Although I enjoyed the domiciliary care sector, my passion remained with residential care.
I liked having more time with the clients and developing those relationships. I started working as Registered Manager at a care home for Age Concern Manchester.
I had a passionate and committed team and led the home to become accredited with Manchester City Council’s Gold Award and the Gold Standards Framework. I am really proud of what I achieved there.
After eight years, I was keen to further my career again. I moved to a larger care provider where I managed the dementia neighbourhood and then the Assisted Living neighbourhood, but I was still looking for a group with a larger portfolio where I could be involved in more services.
That’s when I came across Belong. It seemed perfect, as it was local and a great organisation. I discovered they were commissioning a new care village nearby, which was looking to predominantly support Jewish people. This offered me the opportunity for learning and I liked the idea and challenge of the diversity of people’s needs.
I’d never been involved in commissioning a new residential service before and have loved being a part of it – it made me feel a real sense of ownership and belonging, even before our first resident moved in.
Our care village has 74 beds and provides residential, nursing and dementia care predominantly to the Jewish community. We also have independent living apartments, an award-winning bespoke domiciliary care service and offer experience day care services.
The idea is to offer support at all stages of life and through people’s journeys.
Our service is all about the people. We have six ‘households’ where our residents live in groups of 12 people.
The decision about who lives in which house is not based on needs, but rather on personality and interests. Two ladies in one of our houses have completely different levels of needs but they are now best friends.
In other circumstances, they might never have met, however because we have matched them by their personalities, they have had the chance to form this bond which enhances their lives.
Our households are designed to be as homely as possible. There are no uniforms and our teams enjoy working within their own particular households, so continuity of care is ensured for our residents.
We also have lots of village facilities, such as an exercise studio, a kosher bistro, a synagogue, a library, internet café, salon and a therapy suite. These are all open to the public as well as our residents and those living in our independent living apartments.
The public also uses the space to host community groups – a weekly bridge club attracts around 20-30 people from our local community. As well as this, we have a weekly debate club with a different speaker each time, and we have an eclectic and vibrant social calendar for our residents and the community to enjoy.
I originally found this role due to driving past the site and seeing the Belong signs. I researched the company and saw that it was definitely the sort of organisation I wanted to work for. It was so exciting to be involved from the very beginning, with the ability to shape and mould the service. Residential care is where my heart is – I love the hands-on aspect of the work and the satisfaction derived from developing my team.
Initially, it was challenging opening a new service. Whilst it was great having a completely new service, with brand-new buildings and equipment, it also took time for us all to gel together as a team.
I found that teamwork and having a common aim really helped here. It’s safe to say that the village has surpassed what I thought it would be, having a great team has been a huge part of this.
The best part of my job is the people. Meeting some amazing customers and seeing my team progress over the last 12 months, supporting people to grow and develop brings me so much joy and I feel overwhelmingly proud of the care and support that our residents receive.
The greatest challenge is sometimes the speed at which things change – everything happens so fast; you can have just a few days off and come back to find the needs of a resident are completely different to when you left.
You come into work on any given day expecting to do a, b and c, and end the day having not done any of them but having done several other things instead.
The way I deal with this is to prioritise, recognise that you are part of a team, that the team can support you, and you can work together to achieve your aims.
My line manager wanted to nominate me for the Rising Stars programme. I felt honoured and fortunate to have the opportunity to be recognised in this way. I’m enjoying going to the events, meeting new people, including industry leaders, and learning from them.
My mentor has also been fantastic and a huge support. She has already helped me to focus on my goals and think about my career. She has also given me support to progress my service and encourage my team.
I see Rising Stars as a learning opportunity and am grasping all opportunities to educate myself – from sessions and workshops to speaking to other Rising Stars in the group.
I’m taking everything I learn and passing it down to my team – it might be me who was nominated but I want to share the gain with whoever I can.
My advice is to treat each day as a learning opportunity, whether it has been a successful day or not. Listen to the people around you and take away something from everyone you speak to – positive or negative. I find that I can always come away from a conversation with a thought like, ‘I wouldn’t have approached it like that’ or ‘I like the way they handled that’.
Also, invest in your teams. Without the right people you can’t have a great service. I am only where I am now because of the support I have received. I have learnt to to be strategic rather than reactive, and to always reflect on my actions and consider them carefully before I take them.
I think senior management teams should never underestimate the responsibilities that sit behind being a registered manager. They should make sure everyone in the organisation is aware of this and offer guidance and support. I’m an ambitious person, so I think that career development should always be on offer too.
More also needs to be done to promote caring as a career; we need to encourage people to aspire to be part of the work we do.
Catherine is part of the second cohort of Rising Stars. This innovative programme, developed by National Care Forum and supported by Carterwood and apetito, is designed to identify leading lights within organisations who will shape and form the care sector in the future.
More information about the programme, the candidates and future opportunities can be found on the NCF website .