At the time, jobs were hard to find so I looked and at the same time enrolled myself in a childcare course. I was offered a job in a residential care home for adults with learning disabilities. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, no qualifications, and had never had to care for anyone.
At the end of my first day, I took some time to reflect and realised how much of a difference I had made and could continue to make to these individuals.
In time, I moved on to experience a different type of caring - care in the community. I was nervous about being a lone worker, but it was reassuring to be part of a team and know I wasn't on my own; they were at the end of the phone. I learnt a lot of new skills regarding the delivery of personal care, the importance of human contact for many of my clients and thier main carers. I have also learnt a lot of new knowledge from our clients regarding stories from their pasts, the war, and hints and tips on different ways to cook my own family's dinner!
I love my job. It is so rewarding and interesting....no two days are the same. It offers me the flexibility to continue my education as I am currently working towards my degree, and it allows me to have time at home with my young family and ageing parents. It also enables me to give something back to all these individuals who have helped us to have the country we have today.
I am very glad the stigma of being a carer has diminished over my time in the care sector, and carers really are proud to do their job. I for one am proud to be a carer and to be part of an amazing, caring and compassionate team at Divine Homecare.
``When I came back to Taunton in 2014, I had moved in with my sister, had no job, lacked confidence and thought my age may be a problem when it came to finding a new career. I signed up at the job centre and, with their help, was put on a 'back to work' introduction week where I was introduced to Care Wyvern.
I spoke to the recruiting officer, being honest about my situation, skills, and employment status. For a long time, I had been a wife and mother and had no real experience of the elderly. I wanted a job, and Care Wyvern thought I was what they were looking for so offered me one. Care Wyvern paid for a DBS check, which lessened my money concerns.
I started my induction and, after the first day, went home realising I knew more about care than I had thought and felt good. The staff I met were friendly and there was a lovely atmosphere in the office. I was offered a cup of tea whenever I went in.
After the induction, I did some shadowing of other carers. The girls were friendly and one in particularly was so good. I thought that if I were even half as good as her, I would be satisfied with myself.
I have enjoyed every minute of the job - I have had tears, frustration and laughter, sometimes all in one day, but every day can be a joy and different. I have gained so much from my job and, more importantly, must be doing a good job as our clients have asked me to return to their homes which is a privilege!
At the age of 18 I saw a vacancy at Wey House in Taunton, applied and was successful. In February 2012 I began my first shift as a support worker. I quickly learnt that the role involved so much more than just supporting people out on activities, with more primary tasks focused on tasks in relation to personal care and living skills.
It wasn’t long until I realised that my ability to make a difference to people’s lives could be enhanced further. Following a service restructure, I was identified by managers as being able to perform more senior duties and it was through their encouragement and support of me that I was successful in securing a senior support worker vacancy.
For the next 12 months or so, I worked hard in my role as senior support worker while continuing to look for opportunities for further development. In December 2014, I was encouraged to apply for a position at another Voyage Care home, Langley House, to help me develop additional skills. I commenced employment at Langley House as a senior support worker and within a matter of days and weeks I began learning new skills which I loved. As with all jobs, it had its ups and downs but I thoroughly enjoyed my role over the coming 18 months or so. During this period I was also fortunate enough to buy myself a house in the local area; something I had been saving towards for many years.
In December 2015, the position of Deputy Manager became available at Langley House. I was selected as the preferred candidate and was awarded the role. In November 2016, I successfully passed my probation period as Deputy Manager and was fully welcomed into the role. Since that time I have learnt a lot more about the service, the people we support and the staff who support them. I have spent time familiarising myself with all the company systems, policies and procedures and have gained confidence in delivering in my role through experience.
I am now working towards my Diploma Level 5 in Health and Social Care Management and have strong ambition and commitment to achieve a Manager’s position within the sector in the coming years. My ambitions of achieving a manager’s position isn’t my final destination, in the future I would like to think that I could work towards such a role similar to operations manager and beyond!
Keen to make a difference and put her experience to use, Claire offers a range of services to local people who want to maintain their independence. Taking steps to ensure she offers a safe, quality service Claire has received great interest and is already supporting several local residents.
Having survived a very dark period in my life, my confidence had taken a terrible beating. Realisation had set in that, at my age, I was not going to be able to walk back into the kind of jobs I had been able to when younger and I was not in a financial position to start a new business again so I was floundering, badly. Joining the ranks of the unemployed at the Job Centre completed my humiliation and the stigma of this (imagined or not) was, to me, almost unbearable.
To tide me over, whilst I gathered my thoughts and earned my keep, I managed to bag myself a job in a local Care Home. With no transport of my own, somewhere which was in walking distance of my lodgings was ideal so I approached them direct. I did not have any experience of care apart from the usual things that any woman of my age had experienced - elderly relations, bringing up children, running a household - so was not sure I would even be considered for the job but, at interview, I was made to feel very comfortable and as I chatted away I soon realised that my life experiences would stand me in good stead for the role I was applying for. Thankfully they saw something in me worth cultivating and I was offered a carer's job with Somerset Care.
Within a week or so, I knew that this was something I could do and do it well. I had always been in sales and marketing of some kind and I soon realised that the skills needed for this new role were not so far removed from what I had done in the past. I was able to utilise the selling skills I had always been so successful with but instead of selling a product, I was selling a way of life. I loved chatting to the residents and feeling them warm to me. Very soon important, genuine bonds began to form.
The passion and interest I suddenly found in Dementia and caring took me totally by surprise. When I realised what an impact these people were making on me I knew I wanted to know more, not only about the job but about them too. I listened to their stories, I laughed with them, and at times I cried with them. I tried my best to understand what it was they wanted and what I could do to help them. As quickly as I could I immersed myself in learning as much as possible about the life of each person I was caring for. And boy, did I care.
After about a year, the role of Activity Co-ordinator came up and I just knew that this was the job for me. I would be able to spend more quality time with the residents and I could throw myself wholeheartedly into finding new ways to improve everyone's day-to-day life. Since landing that role I have gone through a complete metamorphosis and become a total bundle of pure energy! I can honestly say, hand on heart, that what I do is not a job.
At 63 I have found my true vocation in life and believe me it was well worth waiting for. I have never felt so at home as I do as when I am in a room full of residents, reminiscing and reliving their stories, singing their favourite songs or simply holding their hands. The pleasure I get when a person previously lost to us in their dementia world suddenly begins to connect is a pleasure impossible to measure. It absolutely consumes me and I know I am a better person for it.
Proof in the pudding that it is never too late to start again. It would have been easy for me to have given up, to have believed my own insecurities that no one would employ me at my age and to have sat back and wallowed in the 'what ifs' and 'why me's'. But thank goodness I took that leap of faith and jumped with both feet well and truly into the unknown.
Working in the care environment is well suited to the more mature person. We can offer a wealth of life experiences and we can relate to the stories, events and memories that have shaped our residents' lives. I know that I can bring a smile to their faces every day and feel loved and needed. It sounds clichéd, but my work has made my life complete. The residents have enabled me to rediscover a passion and zest for life I thought had long gone. And I know without a shadow of doubt that what I am doing is appreciated.
Harriet has recently again increased her contracted hours to 17 and is still attending college to complete her Level 3 extended diploma.
Harriet also won Learner of the Year in the Voyage Care Awards in 2017 and is planning to go full time with Northfield House from June 2018.
The role of a support worker is varied, but here is an outlook on a single day…
The morning starts with a handover. This enables us to communicate what has happened overnight and plans for the day. Throughout the day we support residents with their personal care. To start with, we work as a team to support the residents with their morning routines. I really like this part of the day because every resident is always happy to see you, and you get to support them in their decisions of what to wear, or how to have their hair styled. I really enjoy empowering people to make their own decisions. We then have breakfast with the residents and provide support in keeping their rooms clean and doing their laundry.
In the morning, there are a variety of activities that the residents take part in: walking, shopping, horse riding, college and/or using the sensory room. It’s great to see their faces when they are doing something they really enjoy!
We also provide support during lunch time. Our cooks do an excellent job of preparing dishes tailored to each individual’s needs.
The afternoon is also packed with activities for the residents: physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, gardening and/or listening to live music.
Quite often staff cook the evening meal, and some residents like to help us with this. It really is great to support them with domestic skills. After a busy day, the residents enjoy relaxing: watching a film, reading a story and / or listening to music. Once a week we hold a disco in the evening for the residents to enjoy.
Soon enough we support the residents to bed, ensuring they are supported according to their needs.
The role of a support worker is hard work, but it’s more rewarding and enjoyable than I could ever have imagined. It’s a lot more than just providing personal care. The happiness of the residents as you provide the support for them to carry out everyday tasks is just such a great feeling! There’s also so much to learn – staff are encouraged to take part in ongoing training and development. What’s also great is that the company are always open to ideas and ways to improve our service. The role doesn’t feel like a job, and I always look forward to going in! This is somewhere I hope to be for many years!
A friend, who worked in a nursing home, would always encourage me to come for an interview. I kept saying ‘no, I couldn’t do that’. It was the thought of taking people to the toilet and helping with their hygiene that put me off. It was not that I thought that I couldn’t do it, after all I had two small children. It was more the thought of it being embarrassing as you would be assisting adults. My other concern was that I had dyslexia and, although I knew I could do a lot better, I took less challenging jobs that would hide this.
After a lot of encouragement, I went for the interview, talked about my dyslexia and got the job. I went through the induction and initial training and the more I did, the more I thought that this was the job for me. After all the training and shadowing, I was a different person. My confidence had grown, I felt that I was making a difference in peoples lives and didn’t even think about the things that initially worried me. They become second nature and part of giving good care.
I was encouraged to take my NVQ2 qualification. I was initially worried about my dyslexia but the training company assured me that there would be assistance to help me complete the qualification. In July 2005, I passed my Adult Social Care NVQ2 qualification.
By 2007, I had gained even more experience and was looking for my next challenge. The training company were promoting NVQ level 3’s, and the home wanted staff to train to become senior carers. I put my name forward and by September 2007 I had my level 3 qualification. I would wear my level three badge with pride and enjoyed not only giving care, but helping new staff achieve good levels of care and qualifications of their own. By February 2010 I had achieved my level 4 qualification and was happy in my work. I still finished my shift knowing I had made a difference in people’s lives and put smiles on people’s faces.
Now, I am ready for my next major challenge, it’s July 2018 and I have passed my level 5 qualification. I am Head of care and Deputy Manager in a residential home and loving every minute of it. Who would have thought that I would ever have said “I couldn’t do that”.
About three years ago I started working for different disability organisations alongside Somerset County Council, supporting individuals to find care and help them to remain living in their own home.
I have learnt a lot about how the care system works, and realised that working in the care sector is incredibly rewarding and offers a genuine opportunity to have a positive impact on many people and their daily lives, I have no regrets about my career change.
I have also found that having a major physical disability myself has helped me to understand the needs of others better, and that people can relate to me easier because I am in similar situation to them perhaps.
I now work for Dementia Care TLC, as their Business Support Manager. This is giving me opportunities to get involved with growing the care agency and support a range of tasks, client care reviews, recruitment, advertising to name a few. Most of all I am proud to play my part in ensuring that people receive great care.
This is my journey through those 5 years. I had no real history of working in care but have a background of factory and retail work and was also for a time, a self-employed white van man.
I was a volunteer Church Minister in our town and also a volunteer Chaplain at our local NHS hospital when Voyage Care hired our church hall for a recruitment open day. I went across to make sure that they were well supplied with coffee and came away with an application form! By the end of the day I had an appointment the next morning for an interview. The interview took place and shortly afterwards I was offered a position of Support Worker within Voyage Care. Due to my commitments elsewhere I started on a 14 hour a week contract.
My first two weeks I sat and watched other support workers and only got involved in the work and conversations when approached. That is part of my personality and at the end of my probation I discovered that the residential home manager thought I would not be someone who stayed long term.
Once I felt comfortable amongst my fellow staff, and understood how the seniors worked; things began to change. I soon became a valued and reliable member of the team. I then started to use my skills from previous jobs to address the things that kept coming up in conversations within the team. I was very happy being a support worker and working with the people living at the residential home to help them achieve good days.
As soon as my probation was finished I applied to go for my level 2 NVQ as I thought this was the quickest way to get the specific knowledge that I needed to do my job to a high standard. I soon started to help the senior team with some of their paper work and began to see the amount of ‘behind the scenes’ work they have to do.
As I grew in confidence I felt able to suggest ways that might streamline paperwork or help lessen the stress at certain times of the day and month. One of the biggest changes that I was able to help bring in was a move from the old style Voyage Care workbooks to person centred paperwork that meant less writing whilst retaining the same amount of information. Taking the idea from scratch to implementation took about 6 months and included taking samples back to the staff team for changes and recommendations and to our deputy, residential home and area manager for approval. These forms we used until Voyage Care introduced a new workbook in 2018.
At the beginning of 2015 a role for a acting senior support worker became available within the residential home and many of the staff team encouraged me to apply for the role. I thought this was a good role as it gave me a safety net of being able to return to a support worker if I discovered that the role was not for me. I believe I fitted in well within the senior team and was mentored by a senior who understood my style of learning; instead of telling me where everything was, she told me what was to be achieved and sent me off to do it.
When a post for a full time senior support worker became available within the home I didn’t apply for it, one reason for this was that I believed this took my safety net away and the other was my reluctance to believe that I was good enough to do the role. Six months later another opportunity arose to move up to a full time senior support worker and, although still reluctant, I applied for the role and was successful and given the post.
It is here that I believe that all the respect that I had gained by proving myself to be someone that would do the hands on work around the residential home and actively support the people living there gave me the backing of the support workers who I now supervise and guide. As an individual that doesn’t like dealing with conflict this was my primary concern and always going to be the hardest part of my new role for me to feel comfortable with.
Within the role I was able to see where ‘systems’ could be more streamlined. I see preparation as a major part of any process. One of the biggest stresses in the senior role appeared to be ‘month ends’. I saw that if we could sign things off on maybe a weekly, or page by page basis, then when we got to the ‘month end’ we would have less stress. It would also mean that any mistakes could be rectified earlier. Also, by printing all of the next month’s relevant paperwork out before the month end day we could make our ‘month end’ a smoother process.
There were other paperwork systems that we have streamlined by printing a whole years worth of forms out during the last 3 months of the previous year which has allowed our monthly change overs to now not be the daunting tasks they once were.
Longer term staff members have been willing for me to do their supervisions as they have confidence in my responses. They understand that I use my humour to defuse a lot of potentially problematic situations and we have built a team that has quite a few staff members who have now been working together for 5 years or more. New staff members have been welcomed into the team and have been able to develop themselves, within our team setting, to grow in their roles and become valued members of the team.
I applied to do my Level 3 Diploma in Health & Social Care and managed to achieve this within nine months of starting it; mainly due to the amount of effort that I put into my level 2. I have now reached near completion of my level 4 Diploma. This has supported me in the recent application and appointment of the Deputy Manager post at the beginning of March 2019.
I’m now looking forward to all the new experiences this role will provide me and to learning even more about my personal management style and working to bring out the best in the people we support and the staff team I help to lead.