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Hertfordshire County Council

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‘I find what I do rewarding and it really comes to life when you’re doing it’

Hertfordshire Council care careers image

Supporting adults to maximise their independence is more than just a job for support workers at Hertfordshire County Council. It is a vocation and one that has helped them build strong relationships with the adults they support

“Knowing that in my role, I am able to make a difference to someone’s life and have the support of management to develop my career in adult social care are some of the reasons why I have been so keen to progress my career at Hertfordshire County Council (HCC),” says Lisa Whitmarsh, deputy manager at Hixberry Lane supported living & short breaks service.

Supported living helps adults, who may have additional physical, sensory or mental health needs, to live as independently as possible. The role involves assisting them with cooking, cleaning, personal care and supporting them to enjoy community-based activities. HCC has over 20 supported living accommodation sites.

In the decade that Lisa has been in the supported living service, she has progressed from apprentice, through team leader, to managing over 30 members of staff.

When Lisa wanted to progress from an H5 to an H6, she was given the opportunity to do so.

“I would say internal recruitment is effective,” she says. “You are being given opportunities and roles that prepare you to progress. I have felt supported to do this every time an opportunity has come up.”

Working together

Lisa has just finished  supporting one lady to renovate her bedroom. This was something that had been planned for a while but because of Covid-19 restrictions, the lady was visiting the day centre less, creating an opportunity for the pair to focus on it.

“We painted and decorated her bedroom, refitted the wardrobes and helped her to declutter,” says Lisa. “Her room is a lot cleaner and tidier and she has more storage space for her CDs. It is good for her because she has better access to her belongings.

“She was so excited she was jumping up and down and showing everyone her new room. That was nice to see because that was something that I helped her achieve.”

Matt Hitchcock, who has worked as a support worker for the last year, shares a similar positive experience. Matt and two other colleagues were redeployed to supported living from the day centre, after a reduction in day service provision due to pandemic restrictions.

While day centre work often involves group activities, working in supported living allows you to work one-to-one with a person, building a strong relationship and becoming an integral part of their day-to-day life.

Senior members of staff have additional responsibilities including running shifts, training staff, co-ordinating medication administration and being trained in performance management.

This kind of learning experience has helped Matt develop his organisational and communications skills.

Support and care

“There is one man who I have really built a rapport with and he knows that he can rely on me,” he says. “It is not just him, there are others. I don’t think they see me as someone who comes into work – they see me as their friend and I get to meet their parents and talk about the things that are meaningful to them. I find what I do rewarding and it really comes to life when you’re doing it.”

“Being able to finally get him to open up to me and in his own way and talk to me about his problems, that is the biggest positive for me because that took months for him to be able to trust me and talk to me the way he does. Now it’s like there’s a very strong bond.

“I am constantly updating his support plan, adding points in there that he’s mentioned off the cuff or something we have had a long discussion about. Because we have this relationship and he knows I have time for him, I feel he is more open with me.

“I am lucky I can support him to go for  three or four-hour walks. We sit in the park and sometimes, he doesn’t say a word. Other times, I can’t stop him talking, and that’s the thing, he knows I’ve got time for him. “

Flexible working

The rewards for working in HCC extend further than developing strong bonds with the adults staff support. Although the role requires staff to work every other weekend and bank holidays, there is a degree of flexibility. Staff work on early or late shifts and have every other or one in three weekends off.

Staff that are contracted to work on bank holidays do so on a rotation and so, if they work the Christmas Day one year, they get time and a half pay for doing so, and would not work it the following year.

Market forces pay also means that staff get a pay boost every April and October based on the amount of unsociable hours they have worked.

Lisa says that the shift pattern works well for her. “I like being able to have one day off a week and having the flexibility of getting home at around 2.30pm or being able to wake up later if I am on an afternoon shift.”

And for Matt, he has found HCC to be very supportive during personal challenges in his life. “My siblings and I used to care for my mum at home,” he says. “They would support her during the week and me at the weekends. But when I started, I was having problems juggling that and ended up having to talk to my manager about it.

“The support from staff and management has been fantastic and I was able to find a carer who comes in to support my mum. I also feel my managers have been supportive. They always check on me to find out if I need more help, which is really good.”