Rising Stars

Katie Reynolds is Contract Manager for Look Ahead managing three services across Hertfordshire and Berkshire.

Career history

I started my career as an assistant support worker at a young people’s hostel in Southwark. It was a busy and challenging service for 116 people with complex needs. It taught me a lot very quickly and I made some great friends working there. It had a great energy and I was inspired by working with passionate support workers who wanted to make a difference to young people’s lives. I then worked my way up to support worker and onto team leader.
I worked there for just over two years, before moving to a team leader role in a mental health service closer to home in Hillingdon, where I led two services for people with long-term mental health conditions.

It was in 2016 that I then became a contract manager for two supported living services in Hertfordshire, Oakview and Linden Road. This year, I took on responsibility for residential home, Common Road in Berkshire.

As Contract Manager, I am the Registered Manager for the services and manage the team leaders and senior support workers; it’s a larger team with responsibility over the three services. I split my time across the three services and try to dedicate a full day to each, although sometimes my priorities mean I move from service to service as needed.

Oakview in Stevenage offers supported living for 10 adults, each with their own flat and a lively communal space. Linden Road in Redbourn is home to two gentlemen living in their own bungalows, whilst Common Road in Berkshire supports one gentleman in his own home where dedicated teams of support workers provide personalised care and support.
We’ve achieved a lot in the services in a few years and look forward to continuing the great work. Most clients are supported via local authority funding or continuing healthcare. I help the team support 13 clients in total. Most of my clients have a learning disability or autism, some have physical disabilities or mental health conditions too.

All of the services enable service users to lead fulfilled and happy lives, with an emphasis on choice and control, offering a flexible and responsive service, enabling them to achieve greater independence, improved quality of life and integration into the wider community.
Look Ahead has a range of services across London and the South East. We’re specialists in delivering mental health, young people, homelessness and learning disability services. Learning disability services, which I work in, are a small but growing part of the business.

Current role

I came to this role in 2016 looking for a new challenge. I knew I wanted to keep working with people to make their lives better and keep learning too.

I knew it would be hard when I took it on, it’s a definite step up from team leader. There’s a higher level of responsibility, more interaction with the Care Quality Commission and a lot of hard work. I’ve learned to juggle everything, though I need to prioritise more as there’s more to do. You need to get on, get things done and move onto the next thing at a really fast pace.

That said, I do enjoy the role. The best part is seeing the clients having fun and enjoying activities, events and holidays. Knowing that we’re responsible for helping someone live their life as they wish, and take a holiday, which they may not have had the chance to do for a long time is fantastic.

Some of our clients have come to us from long stays in hospitals and seeing them develop and learn new skills, even if it’s learning to vacuum or undertake simple domestic tasks, and come so far is wonderful. I really get a boost when there’s an atmosphere of fun and happiness.

The hardest part has to be the juggling and managing difficult situations, though. As Contract Manager everyone looks to me to make the decisions, it is my responsibility after all. However, you have to think about things from all angles; many decisions are on my shoulders and I need to carefully consider the impact of each important decision I make.

Rising Star

I didn’t know I’d been nominated to be a Rising Star, it was one of our operations managers who nominated me. I was really pleased to be chosen, to know that someone sees potential in me and that I’m working hard to achieve the best for the people I support.

I’m enjoying meeting the other Rising Stars, sharing experiences and learning from each other. I’ve got a lot from my relationship with my mentor, Karen, too. She works for the Royal Masonic Benevolent Institution and has enabled me to visit their services, learn about what they do and how they do it, given me advice and support.

She’s been very lovely and supportive, she invited me to visit their head office and set up meetings for me, I met another manager and people from HR and compliance. It was great to be able to speak to them all about what they do and learn from them. I was given books on management by Louise, their Head of HR and I got a great insight into other services that I might not have been able to visit and see behind the scenes otherwise. It’s been really good to see other services in this way, she’s really open and supportive.

I’m looking forward to catching up with the Rising Stars again at the National Care Forum Managers Conference.

The future

Looking to the future, I’d like to carry on getting experience in this role as I’m still fairly new. I’d definitely like to learn more from other services. I’d also like to try working in other services but stay in management as that is where I feel my strengths are.

Rising Stars is really important to helping me realise my future too. It’s giving me the opportunity to meet people from other organisations and services, to see similarities and differences, what works and what might not and see more of what’s out there in the sector.

Advice

My advice to others would be to prioritise your work, make a good list and don’t get bogged down with the little things.

Also, and as importantly, have fun. Don’t get too serious. Yes, you have responsibility and you must take that seriously, but you support people’s lives and those people need to live in a fun environment.

I had a manager that was really supportive of me and I think that really helped me to become the manager I am. I think it’s important for managers to be calm with people, support them, enable them to grow and be themselves. People need someone to listen to them and guide them in order to grow, and a nurturing environment can help people shine.
To become a good manager, people need the right resources too and someone who will enable them to become the best they can. If people are given opportunities to try things and to develop their skills, you might be surprised at what they can achieve.

Katie is part of the first ever cohort of Rising Stars. This innovative programme, developed by National Care Forum and supported by Carterwood, 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 at www.nationalcareforum.org.uk

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