I’ve been working in the healthcare sector since 2008. I started as a support worker in a supported living service, working with adults with a forensic history. This included people who might have come from a secure unit, people who had been deprived of their liberty and adults with very complex needs.
I left the health and social care sector in 2010 to pursue a career in the prison service. For five years, I worked as a prison officer on secure mental health units before making the decision to come back to health and social care in 2015. I realised how much I had enjoyed my work in social care – it’s not just a job – you have to want to help and support people and get fulfilment from that. In January 2017, after working as a support worker for two years, I took the opportunity to step up to become Care and Support Co-ordinator. I was then successfully promoted to Assistant Manager in 2018.
I really enjoy my job. I get the opportunity to learn from others every day; I engage with colleagues across the business to find new ways of working and to develop innovative practices that will help the people we support. It is a challenging role, but it’s satisfying when you overcome the challenges.
As Assistant Manager I am responsible for 25 supported living schemes across Derbyshire. Within these schemes, we support 45 people with learning disabilities, mental health and autism. My role includes managing three care and support co-ordinators and 60 support workers. I love this aspect of my work as it gives me an opportunity to see people learn new skills and help them to progress with their career development.
I have always been hungry for career opportunities. Prior to working in social care, I was a team leader in a different industry and I took the first opportunity I had to progress in this sector. It is important to me to be able to make a difference at a higher level so that I can effect change and pass down skills and knowledge to benefit others.
One of the biggest challenges within care is recruitment, and because of the remote area in which we operate, this can be even more difficult. There’s a low unemployment rate but I knew this when I took the role on and, in order to attract new support workers, I have led recruitment campaigns that included drop in sessions, radio advertising and mail drops. This has been very successful and has also led to us increasing our relief list of staff.
I admit that I was worried about climbing the ladder at first. My hesitations were grounded in the concern that I might not get as much one-to-one time with the people we support. However, I actually get to interact with them and their families just as much as before. I also have the added bonus of being able to get the very best out of the people I manage helping them achieve their career aspirations.
I think every care management position has challenges. For me, the most difficult thing is switching off. You are responsible for how the decisions you make affect the people you support; you’re looking after people’s lives and it can be hard to leave that ‘at the office’. I am also always thinking about new initiatives that will support the people using our services to reach their outcomes.
It was a great honour and privilege to be nominated for the Rising Stars programme by our Executive Director, Joanna Grainger. I didn’t know much about it to begin with, but the more I read about the programme, the more excited I got about it. Now, as we near the end of the programme, I am very keen to put into practice what I have learnt. It has been so beneficial for improving my networking skills and sharing ideas about innovative ways to improve service delivery.
One of my improvement areas was to become more confident in engaging with people at conferences and events. I already feel more able to do this from the support I have received from my mentor on the programme and I am looking forward to future opportunities where I can put this into practice. I can be quite shy so it’s amazing for me personally to feel that I’m changing this.
I’m relatively new to management and I have spent my whole career in social care in one organisation, focusing on one aspect of the service, so the programme has also helped me to broaden my knowledge of the sector as a whole. It has been great to get to know how other people are operating, their challenges, the rewards of their jobs and how we can all learn from one another.
The whole cohort has formed a support network for each other – we ask questions and try to help each other out where we can. This is a great added benefit of the programme.
I’m still very career hungry. I am aiming to be Registered Manager within the next 12 months. My Rising Stars mentor helped me put together a five-year career plan as, ultimately, I’d like to be Operations Manager. We have identified what areas I need to focus on and my organisation has provided opportunities for me to put my learning into practice.
My main piece of advice is to keep trying, even if you get a few knock backs. I’ve taken constructive feedback from interviews, implemented it, and tried again. I see it as a learning experience. I also think it’s important to remain focused. All feedback allows for you to learn and understand your personal development areas.
However, it’s also really important to recognise your staff and the great work that they do, and to take notice of their health and wellbeing. We are all dealing with everyday pressures, as well as the extra pressures that naturally come from working in care, and sometimes it’s important to take a step back, look at a person’s workload, and ask, ‘Are you alright?’.
Working in care can mean unsociable hours and managing difficult situations, so it is important that everyone feels valued. I couldn’t do my job successfully without the commitment I receive from my staff. They go above and beyond for the people we support and I am extremely grateful for their dedication.