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.”

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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