"I’m constantly blown away by some of the creativity and support that I see…" What do you do for a living? Do you like your job?How did you get into this line of work?What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in the first year of your career?What lessons has your work life taught you?Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? Do you have any favourite stories from your work life? What do you do in your spare time and why? What do you do for a living? I’m the Director of Operations at SeeAbility. I support the social care services within SeeAbility, this includes our registered care homes, supported living services, day centers and outreach support. I also support the Head of Quality and Compliance, the Head of Specialist Services Team and Head of Business Development with their roles. The aim is to support individuals to be living meaningful lives, push the barriers that prevent inclusion and help people to reach their goals, in a nutshell making sure everyone we support and employ in our services are happy safe and well, and to find other people SeeAbility can support to be happy, safe and well. Do you like your job? I absolutely love my job! It’s a privilege to be part of a team which is dedicated to making such a positive difference to those who are some of the most vulnerable in today’s society. I also get tremendous satisfaction from meeting the individuals themselves and their families. Hearing how people feel about the support they receive - good or bad – is extremely important to me, this helps me to stay in touch with the reality of what we do here at SeeAbility. The feedback from people we support and their families helps me do the best that I can and strengthens my commitment to making a difference. How did you get into this line of work? Having had first hand experience of disabilities, I grew up appreciating how the right support can help people have the right lives. I started as a support worker in 1991, around the time when the Care in the Community Act 1990 began to change how people received care in the UK. People who had previously been living in long stay hospitals and institutions were being supported to live in the local communities in smaller group living services, usually in registered care homes. There was a drive to recruit people into the sector and I felt that this was a great opportunity to do something very important and to make a difference to people’s lives. I began supporting people who were moving from long stay hospitals - where some had lived for up to 50 years - to begin living their lives and do real everyday things such as shopping, working, exploring their local places, for the first time. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I knew then that I wanted to stay in the social care sector for the rest of my career. What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? I wanted to be many things! I wanted to be a policeman for a while. My uncle worked at Scotland Yard and I always enjoyed hearing about how he was working to make places safer. Plus I was a big fan of Starsky and Hutch and the Professionals when I was growing up. Oh, and I also wanted to be an explorer and an astronaut. Looking back, what advice would you give to yourself in the first year of your career? Don’t let obstacles get in the way of what you think can be achieved and keep your passion alive. In those days, those working in social care faced many challenges (we still do today) when supporting people on their journeys into their new homes. Sometimes the professionals who were more experienced and qualified appeared to know what was best, but as I became closer to the people I supported, I was able to influence these decisions more because I was getting to know the real people behind their diagnosis and reputation. On reflection, I think if I’d been braver then, perhaps more people would have had more outcomes even sooner. I remember a gentleman who moved out of a hospital setting who took about 10 different medications each day and as a result lacked energy and was very withdrawn. I questioned his medication regime because I sensed it was affecting him greatly and was told that it was helping him stay stable. This approach was common at the time but I sensed it was having a huge impact on his ability to be who he really was. Although I was challenging accepted practice, his psychiatrist eventually agreed to gradually withdraw his mediation and we soon began see the gentleman’s real personality emerge. He was a lovely guy who slowly began to become more involved with his life and began to enjoy everyday things like shopping and visiting the local pub – which until then just hadn’t been possible. What lessons has your work life taught you? Prepare to be amazed each and every day! I’m constantly blown away by some of the creativity and support that I see, where team members are supporting people in achieving great outcomes. Whether it’s making a cup of tea or getting on a bus and going shopping for the first time or finding a job, getting married and having children… the people I’ve met throughout my career have taught me to never underestimate just how far people can go on their own journeys to achieving the things that they aspire to. Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you? My Father has been the biggest influence on my life. He showed me how to be determined to go and do the things you want to do, to be strong and committed and use what skills you have and to learn new ones to achieve something that is out of reach. He was a carpenter and craftsman who build many things such as houses, grandfather clocks and film sets. He never gave up, sadly he passed away several years ago after suffering from a chronic illness, but during this time his courage to be with my mum and us as a family was truly inspiring. His love for us has shown me just how important it is to have this in your life and what true love is… the best role model a son could ever hope for. Do you have any favourite stories from your work life? I supported a group of people who were moving into their own individual flats in one building. It was important to the individuals that they were empowered to be in control of their own lives and make their own decisions and so we worked together to identify what they wanted to achieve. The group decided they wanted to write a book about themselves so my colleagues and I set about contacting their families and people from their past to help get a sense of each person’s history and story. The process helped us identify each person’s strengths and passions and as a result, we were able to identify next steps in areas such as finding jobs. The group found this so exciting that the next thing they wanted to do was make a movie about themselves! So we made a film which the local independent cinema agreed to show as an exclusive. They arrived at their very own red carpet grand opening in limousines and we even had an after-show party! The whole venture was hugely empowering because they realised they were no longer invisible members of the community – they were people with something to say and voices to be heard and could contribute- and so we just kept on going from there, identifying the next steps in each individual’s personal journey. People were able to find jobs and one person found a partner and had his own child. What do you do in your spare time and why? I listen to music and enjoy mountaineering. I recently brought a vinyl record player and have revisited my passion for listening to records. I am quite often seen scouring the local charity shops and record stores for bargains and rarities! I also try to get out to the hills and mountains to do a spot of climbing, I haven’t done this as much lately so I must look at planning some climbs in soon.