My career started when I was 21, I had left formal education at 18 and travelled a little. I was deciding what I wanted to do, when one day I missed a bus and by chance saw an advert for a role at a private learning disability provider. I started as a support worker and met Trevor who has shaped my whole career and approach to working. Trevor came to the service from a long-stay setting and taught me to see beyond people’s behaviours to who they are. He taught me exactly what it meant to be person-centred in all aspects of life.
Trevor still sits on my shoulder and reminds me of who I am and how I should approach all relationships in work and life.
My first years in health and social care helped me to build up my ideals and working practices, but I wanted to develop my skills. I supported Trevor to visit a drama therapist and this opened a door for me. Seeing how the process worked and having had a background in drama I signed up to a degree in drama therapy with the University of Derby.
After graduating, I got a job at a day service, applying my newly acquired skills alongside my existing practices. I enjoyed it and was happy applying my key principles. I then began working for Derbyshire County Council looking at the philosophy and structure of supporting people with behaviours that may be described as challenging. I worked on engaging people in the philosophy of proactive, active and reactive support and recognising how behaviour is used to communicate.
During that time, I completed my adult teaching certificates and developed my role as a staff development officer, delivering staff training across a range of topics. My training as a therapist was complemented and enhanced by my training as an adult teacher and the key principles of both are embedded in my working practice and are the core values I uphold as a manager today.
One day, whilst in Somerset visiting family, I decided to have a look at management jobs in the area and discovered a role for a registered manager for Somerset County Council’s in-house learning disability services and applied. I was successful and went on to hold a number of management roles across a range of services before taking on a temporary role as a senior service manager supporting other managers and services. I enjoyed the role and felt that I did it well, fulfilling all its outcomes but the role required a high level of time and investment so when it was offered to me permanently I chose to step down, so I could focus on the needs of my wife and sons, who are hugely important to me.
Now my sons are adults I began looking for my next career step, which is when I heard about the role at Flowerdown House. I’d been supporting learning disability services for 26 years and wanted to try something new. Everything clicked when I went for the interview – I’d visited to get an idea of the organisation, I’d undertaken thorough research about the RAFA, and everything just fell into place. I started in January 2018, right at the beginning of the RAF’s 100 years celebrations.
The RAFA is a membership-based charity made up of a number of branches run and supported by members. The aim is to offer welfare support to current and ex air force personnel and their partners.
The charity offers a range of welfare support from befriending services to financial assistance and part of this welfare support is provided through its subsidised holiday breaks in any of their three ‘Wings Break’ hotels – Flowerdown, Rothbury and Richard Peck. These hotels offer a holiday break experience to their guests and can offer support to individuals, where required, to enable their access of these services.
Flowerdown House ‘Wings Breaks’ Hotel is an 18-bed hotel. Eight bedrooms have been registered with the Care Quality Commission to enable us to provide personal care and support. The hotel stay includes full board, three excursions into the community and surrounding area and live entertainment on three evenings a week. We also provide mobility scooters for our guests to use so they can independently explore what Weston-super-Mare, with its beautiful pier and beach, has to offer.
I’ve been here for nearly six months now and I think the hardest part for me was to step out of my comfort zone and into a completely new service to explore my skills, abilities and potential. I was nervous to step into the role, but have found myself in a very special setting, working for and supporting a hugely valued charity. Flowerdown House, like all three hotels, has a strong and loyal staff base, so it’s been great getting to know them, becoming part of their team and starting to help in building and growing the service.
Rising Stars was the perfect opportunity for RAFA to put forward a member of the team to benefit from such a wonderful initiative and to work more closely with the National Care Forum. Being new to the organisation and role, I fit the criteria, although I am not new to social care or management.
That being said, I’m a great believer in lifelong learning and the opportunities which come along with the Rising Stars initiative. As an older Rising Star with some experience under my belt, I want to use it to help me explore my next step in the sector – aspirationally I’d like to move into a director or chief executive role in time, so having the mentoring experience and access to other experienced individuals, I believe will help me to get there and provide me insight into these roles and what’s involved in taking these steps. Irrespective of age or experience, I think the programme has the potential to support all Rising Stars wherever they are on their pathway.
I think my success is down to having a knowledgeable and experienced manager to work alongside for the first six months of my career. I think having that support mechanism as you move into a leadership or management role is very important. It helps you to look at your own approaches and align them with others.
Peer support is hugely important too. Having an opportunity to share, discuss and develop through common interest with your peers enables you to grow in areas you wouldn’t alone and gives a safe platform to explore your developing practice with another who shares and understands your role, with all its rewards and challenges.
It can be isolating being a manager, so having people on your level who you can contact for advice and support can help. It’s also important to recognise the type of peer support you may need, whether practical, emotional, or something else and approaching the right peer to help.
I guess ultimately, though, I have to go back to Trevor. He taught me to be person-centred in all aspects of life, not just service delivery. Actively listen, be part of a team, respond, invest, encourage and support.
Whoever they may be and whatever you may be doing together, you need to see the person you are with and keep them at the front of all that you do.
Nick is part of the second 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
Johnny Johnson of Squadron 617 – The DamBusters joined Flowerdown House at its RAF100 Token Fair to help celebrate 100 years of the Royal Air Force. Pictured with hotel guest, Derick Coombs who served as part of the RAF Instrument, Mechanical and Photography division. Derick is sharing old photographs he had of the planes Johnny used to fly and they both enjoyed sharing their stories about them.
Mr George Bagnall served as a Leading Aircraftman (1949/50) at RAF Calshot and was an engine fitter on the seaplanes and flying boats. George is a regular visitor at Flowerdown ‘Wings Breaks’ Hotel and loves meeting his friends and enjoying the comforts of the hotel.
Flowerdown House ‘Wings Breaks’ Hotel