Choice Support calls for care leavers to join them

Choice Support calls for care leavers to join them

Social Care Work

Charity calls for care leavers to join them: “We will value you”

National charity Choice Support has been supporting people with autism, learning disabilities and mental health needs for almost 40 years.

Choice Support – Leonie Brooks

Signatory: Choice Support

The decision to become a Care Leaver Covenant signatory in 2020 was an obvious one for the charity – it aligned strongly with their values of: ‘We care, we respect, we learn, we lead.’

And HR Manager Leonie Brooks, who has worked for Choice Support for almost 16 years, signing up to the Covenant and supporting the campaign also struck a personal chord.

“From the age of three,” she says: “I saw my parents fostering and I saw first-hand the challenges that some foster children faced, which had a massive impact on me.

“My parents were foster carers for around 20 years and looked after more than 40 children. It was a really rewarding experience, and thanks to their foster care work I am blessed to have my three sisters.

She added: “I am proud that Choice Support is supporting the Covenant and #WeCanBeHeroes. The UK population in general is getting older so employing younger people is key – they are our future.

“And who better to work in the field of care than care leavers? Having often faced adversity themselves, and knowing what it’s like to be looked after, they know what good support looks like.

“Care leavers have lived experience and skills, and such an enormous amount of empathy. You can’t teach people that innate empathy.”

“Real jobs, real prospects and real opportunities” for care leavers

Choice Support employs around 2,800 staff to support about 2,500 people to live the life they choose across England, from Wakefield to Hampshire.

Their staff provide support to people with a wide range of needs in different settings, which include supported living schemes, registered care, community support of individuals living in their own homes, employment services and day activities.

Choice Support also recruit ‘Enterprise Assistants’ who operate their Tuck by Truck service, which is a social enterprise supporting people with learning disabilities to gain employment skills by packing and delivering snack boxes to local businesses.

Another enterprise called Growing Concern supports adults with a learning disability to volunteer and work in their own garden centre.

HR Adviser Charlotte, who works closely with Leonie, explained what a typical day is like for a support worker. “Quite simply, no two days are the same!” says Charlotte. “A support worker’s role is varied from supporting people with washing, bathing and taking medication to writing reports and helping people to write their support plans.

“You could be helping people with budgeting, cooking, cleaning or learning how to use computers. You could also be going bowling with someone, going out with them to the cinema, a night at the pub, or even going on holiday.

“Some people don’t realise that you can have a real career in social care. It is a job you can become invested in and really enrich the lives of people you support.”

Longer term, staff can climb the career ladder into operational management roles such as team leader – some of Choice Support’s most senior staff started out as support workers.

Some people decide to progress into different roles within Choice Support, such as working in Learning and Development, the Quality team or in Finance.

Leonie said: “We have real jobs, real prospects and real opportunities for care leavers. We like to promote from within because we want to retain talent where we can.

“Lots of people end up working for Choice Support for a long time because they feel a real sense of belonging. Some of our staff tell us that it becomes like a family.”

Choice Support Logo

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Choice Support - Charlotte Ramsden

Choice Support – Charlotte Ramsden

Other benefits of working for Choice Support

Staff are looked after by getting access to an Employee Assistance Programme which offers free confidential counselling.

Other benefits include an employee benefit scheme, that offers discounted shopping at dozens of online and high street retailers, including ASOS, New Look, Superdry, Domino’s Pizza, Zizzi, cinema chains and many more.

The organisation also helps their staff to obtain a driving licence and will contribute up to £15 per driving lesson for up to 10 lessons.

Support workers could work part or full-time or on a casual basis, and Choice Support also offers an apprenticeship scheme in Health and Social Care.

The charity has also signed up to ‘Ban the Box’ which means having a criminal record doesn’t necessarily stop someone from being able to work with them.

Support on offer for care leavers

Pre-pandemic, Choice Support worked with the Covenant to run a pilot scheme in London to make their recruitment process more accessible to care leavers, and they are planning to replicate this model throughout the country.

Care leavers who are interested in working for Choice Support can first have an informal chat with Leonie or Charlotte.

All care leavers can also have in-person taster sessions to get a feel for the job and see if it is something they think they will like.

Leonie added: “If you are interested in working for us, please just get in touch. We are approachable, friendly and if you have any worries, we can talk through those.

“It is a rewarding job, and the taster days can really help to see first-hand what the job is like.”

On starting work, Choice Support will pair a care leaver with a buddy. Managers are also made aware of any extra support that might be needed.

“We are a family-friendly organisation, which promotes flexible ways of working, and whilst the needs of the people we support always come first, managers often offer different patterns of work to suit staff’s family commitments or to support further studies,” said Charlotte.

Choice Support also makes sure care leavers are given the right training and support to achieve the Care Certificate/Health and Social Care apprenticeship.

Leonie said: “We understand that if you’ve been in care, you may struggle to commit or have lower self-esteem. But we really do want you and will value you. Working for Choice Support will really give you a sense of belonging.”

“It is a rewarding job, and the taster days can really help to see first-hand what the job is like.”

Leonie Brooks

Stuart at Choice Support

Stuart at Choice Support

Social Care Work

Stuart at Choice Support

Stuart, 29, has been a support worker for Choice Support since September 2020, helping people in a supported living scheme to live a more independent life. This is his story.

Support worker, Stuart (Choice Support)

Signatory: Choice Support

About Stuart

When I wake up in the morning I love going to work, how many people can say that?

I always wanted to be a carer and give back. If other people hadn’t helped me, I don’t think I’d be here right now.

I went into care when I was 13. My dad and step mum were alcoholics, and I looked after my younger brother and sister a lot.

Three years before going into care, I saw my brother get knocked down by a drunk driver which really affected me, and I had a breakdown.

When I was in care, I stayed with a few different families. It wasn’t always easy, but my last family and my care workers were amazing.

Support worker, Stuart (Choice Support)

Stuart at work in his role as a Support worker for Choice Support.

Choice Support Logo

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Working in the Health & Social Care sector brings many personal rewards

However, there are many misconceptions surrounding this sector.

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Why work in care?

Working in care is for everyone. It’s not just for women. I’m gay and I work with men who are straight, honestly your sexuality doesn’t matter. What matters is that you love helping people.

I’ve been turned down for lots of jobs before and it was actually the second time I’d applied to Choice Support before I got the job. I was so glad I tried again.

I’ve not worked in a full-time job for a while, so we agreed it was better for me to start off working part time. I work 16 hours over two days a week.

My team is amazing. We’re one big family and if anyone needs anything we’re all there for each other.

I’m dyslexic and I get so much help from Choice Support. I’ve done lots of e-learning and I’ve just achieved my Care Certificate.

In my job, I support people at a supported living scheme. There’s eight people who live at the flats, all different ages.

And they’re just like you or me – they have good days and bad days. Every day is different and a good challenge.

One day I might take someone to town, another day go to the cinema or do a bit of cleaning. I help them to do what they want to do.

My job pushes me to do better and be better. It’s really rewarding.

To anyone who’s thinking about whether working in care is for them, my advice would be – just try it, you won’t be sorry.

When I’m not working, I wish I was at work!

“My team is amazing. We’re one big family and if anyone needs anything we’re all there for each other.

Stuart

“A world of opportunity” with Anchor Hanover

“A world of opportunity” with Anchor Hanover

Social Care Work

“A world of opportunity” with Anchor Hanover

Anchor Hanover is England’s largest not-for-profit provider of specialist housing and care for people in later life, employing more than 9,000 people throughout England.

Anchor Hanover – Teagan Robinson

Signatory: Anchor Hanover

The organisation helps around 65,000 older people to live independently in 54,000 homes across 1,700 locations.

It provides retirement housing to rent and to buy, retirement villages and residential care homes, including specialist dementia care.

The trusted housing and care provider signed up to the Care Leaver Covenant signatory in March 2020, and is backing the Care Leaver Covenant’s #WeCanBeHeroes campaign, reinforcing its commitment to support more young people, age 16-25, leaving the care system to consider a career in social care.

Meet the team

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, Teagan Robinson, has worked for Anchor Hanover for three years and is passionate about helping and encouraging care leavers into work, whether in an office-based role, or working in one of their care homes or housing locations.

Teagan said: “We’re a care provider and there’s a natural synergy between our organisation and the Covenant. We want to help young people, particularly those who may struggle to take the first step into the workplace, to find their feet.

“The last year with the COVID-19 pandemic has really demonstrated how important care workers are and underlined that health and social care is a vitally important sector to work in.”

Apprenticeship Specialist, Dorothy Alexander, joined the company 21 years ago. Dorothy is usually the first point of contact for care leavers interested in joining the organisation.

She is passionate about helping young people to succeed and last year was awarded the Regional Apprenticeship Champion award 2020 for Yorkshire and Humber.

Dorothy said: “My passion has always been about training and I love to see people develop and grow. Working in care, you’ve got a job for life. We’ve so many different career paths for young people leaving the care system and a variety of roles”.

Varied roles

“There’s a world of opportunity at Anchor Hanover. The great culture here makes it a fun place to work,” said Teagan.

“Everyone is passionate and as a not-for-profit we have a good social purpose – we don’t make money for shareholders; every penny goes back into improving the services for our residents.”

She added: “Being a Care Assistant is really varied which some people may not realise. Care assistants also help with all sorts of activities including catering, gardening, and housekeeping. Our head offices also offer jobs in fields including IT, marketing and recruitment.”

Fairway

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Working in the Health & Social Care sector brings many personal rewards

However, there are many misconceptions surrounding this sector.

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To see our latest Health & Social Care offers!

3. Anchor Hanover - Dorothy Alexander

Dorothy Alexander

Apprenticeships

Anchor Hanover also offer 15 or 18-month fixed term apprenticeship contracts nationwide in the following roles: care assistant, catering assistant, housekeeper, as well as business services apprenticeships in areas including IT, HR and customer services.

A thorough support system is in place to provide the best opportunities for care leavers.

Apprenticeship Specialist Dorothy said: “The apprenticeship programme is a great way for care leavers to get paid, learn and develop in the workplace and we’re here to help them every step of the way.

“We understand that starting work in a new environment can be daunting for a young person, especially those leaving the care system. To make it easier, if you join Anchor Hanover as an apprentice, you’ll be supported by buddies and mentors.”

Apprentices will shadow a ‘buddy’ on each shift to help them learn and develop. And mentors are assigned to provide additional support.

If a care leaver needs additional help with their English or maths – as part of their Apprenticeship they will be allocated a tutor specifically to help them reach and achieve the level required.

Apprentices at Anchor Hanover are paid above the national apprenticeship minimum wage. Care leavers who remain on the programme for at least 60 days, also receive a one-off payment of £1,000.

Additional benefits include shopping discounts and cash back at many high street retailers, paid holidays and a £500 travel allowance and help to support ongoing development.

Following six months continuous service and completion of 50% of their course, individuals can apply for a permanent role at Anchor Hanover. And at the end of the apprenticeship, apprentices will get a nationally recognised qualification.

How to apply

Anchor Hanover offers the following support to care leavers applying for any of their vacancies:

  • guaranteed telephone interviews, with detailed feedback for entry-level roles in their head offices
  • one-to-one CV or interview skills workshop, in person or virtually on request

Dorothy added: “If a care leaver gets in touch, I’ll have a chat with them first to put them at ease and find out more about them. This helps me to then make the best possible match to opportunities in their local area.”

“Fairway family” for care leavers

“Fairway family” for care leavers

Social Care Work

“Fairway family” for care leavers

A care provider committed to quality and excellence, Fairway Homecare employs hundreds of health and social care professionals working in more than 200 homes across the West Midlands.

Fairway Homecare – Alex O’Neill

Signatory: Fairway Homecare

Fairway Homecare

Based in Sutton Coldfield, Fairway became a signatory of the Care Leaver Covenant to help care leavers find a career they love in health and social care.

Their Operations Director, Alex O’Neill, is delighted to support the #WeCanBeHeroes campaign.
“The campaign is a perfect fit with our ethos and values, giving people of all backgrounds and circumstances an opportunity to build a career in health and social care,” said Alex.

“Individuals who have had a challenging start in life will often have valuable experiences that they can call upon and relate to others. We have long believed that real people with real life experiences are the very best care professionals to be empathetic, understanding and comforting.

“Fairway actively seek vocationally driven people who value the importance of caring for others and making a difference.

“We welcome enquiries from people who may have experienced barriers to a career in the past,” he added.

Support every step of the way

Fairway operates a flagship, free four-week ‘My Care Portfolio’ (MCP) programme which care leavers living in the West Midlands, who want to work in the care sector but have little or no experience, can benefit from.

Fairway describes MCP as “an unrivalled opportunity to many who were hard to reach, disenfranchised, long term unemployed, lost or looking for something new”.

Jobseekers need to be 19-years-old plus and have been living in the UK for a minimum of three years. Individuals can apply themselves to the programme or their local job centre will need to make the referral.

Run in partnership with their sister company Embark Learning Care Academy, Fairway has also now signed an agreement to extend the MCP programme to more locations in the West Midlands, with an ambition to create 1,000 new health and social care professionals over the next year.

Some 125,000 hours of care will be delivered this year alone by care workers who were not care staff previously.

There are multiple career paths available to explore for those on the programme, including roles as health care assistants, support workers, community carers, chefs, and activities co-ordinators.

Grace Simpson is Fairway’s Compliance and Candidate Liaison Manager and is available to talk to any care leavers to help answer any questions they have.

She also has first-hand experience of the My Care programme. After leaving high school, Grace wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. Her mum was a carer for Fairway and Grace joined the company in 2016 via the programme.

“I started at Fairway as a community carer after completing the programme and have now progressed to being a recruitment manager. The course was really informative, interactive and the trainers were great – the programme really helps to build your confidence,” said Grace.

“We want to help everybody regardless of their circumstances. At the end of the programme, we understand that some participants may not want to continue in the care sector, but we hope they gain the confidence to find their passion in life and realise they can do whatever they put their minds to.

“We greet people with open arms regardless of their situation and understand first-hand how those who have experienced care deserve the opportunity to find a way to live their life independently.”

Grace added: “We have the best interests of our applicants at heart, we will support them every step of the way. We are open and approachable – we are a Fairway family.

“If you’re open minded and would like to hear more about pursuing a rewarding career, helping those who need it the most, then we’d love to hear from you.”

Fairway

Health & Social Care

Working in the Health & Social Care sector brings many personal rewards

However, there are many misconceptions surrounding this sector.

Read our Mythbusters to find out the facts!

To see our latest Health & Social Care offers!

“We greet people with open arms regardless of their situation and understand first-hand how those who have experienced care deserve the opportunity to find a way to live their life independently.”

Grace Simpson

A rewarding career

Currently Fairway and Embark run four MCP programmes a month, with around 30 people on each course.

Participants gain an accredited qualification at the end of the course and a guaranteed job interview. To date, more than 500 care staff have been trained and developed though the programme.

Grace said: “Over the last year with the pandemic, we’ve really seen just how important those working in care are to society.

“No two days are the same. You will work a with a huge range of people, aged 18 plus – not just the elderly.

“It is challenging but it is a really rewarding career and it’s nice to feel you’re giving back.”

The My Care Programme course is highly practical and those on the programme benefit from attending a state of the art in-house ‘Skills Lab’ based in Sutton Coldfield, which provides an environment that allows people to experience the day in the life of a carer.

Their state-of-the-art equipment includes full size mannequins to help practise core skills such as moving and handling to personal care.

A key element of the MCP programme is also a work experience element, with a work placement in a care home, shadowing an experienced care professional, to get a real taste of working in care.

Participants receive feedback to help them improve their skills during their probationary period. Other advantages include monetary incentives and 24/7 support from a safeguarding officer.

Fairway Homecare - Grace Simpson

Fairway Homecare – Grace Simpson