Social care staff on the joys of the profession
Steve Day is employee development manager with the Brandon Trust, a Bristol charity supporting people with learning difficulties.
I was the original cliché; the long haired hippy with the Jesus sandals. Social work seemed like an ethical way to earn a living. I needed a day job while I got on with changing the world in my time off.
At the Brandon Trust, we work with people who are labelled powerless and see them gradually becoming strong and resourceful individuals who cannot be ignored. That is the buzz I get from my job. I am part of an organisation that does not see its role as merely providing services, but instead seeks to support people to live the kind of lives to which they aspire.
I started working here four years ago. I had worked in local authority social services for a long time. I had good jobs. I worked in residential homes and was a social worker in community learning difficulties teams. Later I managed day services and later still was involved in commissioning services for disabled people.
I eventually moved into the independent sector because I felt there would be greater opportunities to develop projects and see them come to fruition. The independent sector is more flexible in its approach to innovative projects than statutory agencies.
My role is heading up training and development. Both improve practice and I believe training should be integral not bolted-on, just to make it look as if an organisation is doing something. The trick is to keep connected with the service users - the people who all our jobs are really about. Ensuring we have a well motivated skilled workforce is crucial. However, what we need most of all is the involvement of the real experts, people with learning difficulties.
Recently my team won a Skills For Care award for involving service users and carers in training. Chris, one of the people with learning difficulties who works with my team, made the acceptance speech. A few years ago the so-called experts were telling his family that he would always have a limited lifestyle. Anyone who heard Chris tell it loud and proud to a packed audience at the Café Royal in London would be in no doubt that he rose way above what was predicted for him.
I love my job because there is room for creativity and I believe the will is out there to make things happen.