Case study taken January 2019

How did you get into care?

I have worked in care for total for almost 10 years. I was born in Sierra Leone, and during the war I came to Holland as a refugee. I studied a Level 3 qualification in care in Holland at the college, and I moved to the UK four years ago. I did some agency work for a year before deciding to work at Exclusive Care, and I have been here now for 3.5 years and am a Key Support Worker and Coordinator; I coordinate the care for one individual with the support of my manager. When I arrived in Holland as a refugee, they took us to different businesses to understand how things worked – for example, schools, factories, and care homes. I didn’t have an understanding of care because in Sierra Leone it was up to family and the individual’s children to take care of them, there was no social care. When I visited the care homes, I met some really lovely people, they were gentle, kind and just seemed happy and smiling. I heard their stories, individual’s life stories, about what they did and how they fell in love with their husbands and wives. Those kinds of old stories made me think wow, I want to work in care. I wanted to make a genuine positive difference in their lives. I thought, why not assist people who are not capable of assisting themselves. The residents helped me too by improving my Dutch language. I had to learn the language for 2 years first, then went to college to study for 4 years. I was the only male black African person on my course, it was scary but very exciting to be learning new skills and become a qualified carer.  

Why did you choose to work in a supported living setting?

When I first moved to the UK, I did agency work and went to lots of different care settings. Working here, it felt like a real family and a very supportive environment, and I applied to be a permanent staff member. It is a very safe atmosphere; the manager is open and you can talk to him whether it is personal or work related.  

What hours do you work?

I am contracted to 37.5 hours per week, but if I want to do overtime, I am able to. That is 7.5 hours a day, but I can choose to do a long shift if I wish. I work every other weekend, and again, if I want to do more and the hours are available, I can choose to do more.  

Why do you enjoy working in care?

The people we support have learning disabilities. I want to help them learn new skills – and when they learn that new skill, I want to help them to maintain that skill for their independence and their confidence. For example, the individual may not have known how to shower themselves, so I will help them and prompt them to take a shower independently, and ensure they continue to do that for themselves with as little help as required going forward. Then they will have that skill for life.  

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

My own challenge here is when I take a resident out. People do not understand and they stereotype. I want to support the resident to feel as included as everyone else, but people look at you like you shouldn’t be here with them. It is terrible, but my duty is to enlighten people. He is a typical human being just like you and me. Some people accept this, but I have had someone leave their food in a restaurant because they were near to us. We have to keep trying to change people’s stereotypes.  

What would you say to someone who is nervous about working in care?

Those that are working in care have to encourage people to see care for what it really is. If you put a smile on someone’s face, that is worth more than the money you are paid. The individuals you support need your support to live a normal life. We are trying to make the most vulnerable people comfortable, happy and independent and there is no better feeling than helping with that. I worked in the post office, restaurants and shops but it is nothing compared to working in care. A friend of mine went from care to work as a taxi driver, and said that he makes more money than me. The way I feel is life is not always about money. I wouldn’t enjoy driving people around, it’s not for me. Working in care is the best choice I made. When you are taking care of people, they are not commodities, not boxes of inanimate items, and this role is much more important to me.

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