International Women’s Day
Interview with Abigail
For International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight some of the achievements of our incredible staff. We spoke to Abigail Harker (Senior Registered Manager in Doncaster) who recently won our Achieve Q Registered Managers Award. Abigail was nominated for the award by her Service Director, the staff team she works with, professionals, service users and their families. Abigail started working with Creative Support in 2019 following a tendering process after which her services transferred. This summer Doncaster Supported Living Service was rated Outstanding from the CQC!
Upon winning the Achieve Q award, Abigail said: “It was really overwhelming to win the CQC Registered Manager of the Year Award. It is a really difficult job at times, and to be recognized for the work that we do is really heartfelt. I work as part of an amazing team and the support from them and from the organisation really helps me within me role.”
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I have worked for Creative Support since January 2019, and have been a Registered Manager in my service for around five years now. I’m very passionate about my job and always strive to achieve the maximum level of service possible.
I’ve worked in social care for 15 years. I wanted to work in care because I wanted to make a difference and make a positive mark on the world. I initially started to train to become a teacher, but I decided to go into care instead and help people the way that I do now.
For me, my work is my family. I get a lot of support from work and I spend a lot of my time here! I’m not a 9-5 manager, I do work unsociable hours, and the people you spend the most time around become your family. I dedicate a lot of my time to work and that’s something I will continue to do because I love spending time doing what I do.
Can you tell me about your recent work?
I manage quite a large supported living service with 27 clients and 70 staff. We have a varied caseload with some service users with complex needs.
In the past twelve months, our main focus has been keeping the morale up for our staff and service users, keeping them safe mentally as well as physically from Covid-19. We wanted to make sure that the pandemic had the least impact possible as there is a life outside the pandemic too and other things to focus on rather than just that.
We’ve tried to think outside the box of what we would normally do including doing prizes for staff and service users, encouraging people to nominate others and keep positive in that way. We’ve also arranged takeaway nights, decorated people’s houses, celebrated holidays, done a service-wide bake-off, and encouraged important relationships with loved ones. We’ve sent out photo albums and encouraged our service users to write letters to their family and friends. Video calls are all well and good, but you can’t look back on them when you’re older and don’t get the same positive memories from them in the same way as you can with photographs and letters.
Everyone has gone through their own journey with the pandemic, and I’ve been working in the service the whole time so I feel empathy with my service users and staff at the times in which they’ve struggled. It’s helped us emphasise the power and need of teamwork and the spirit that we’re all in this together.
Over the past year, things have been difficult in terms of infection control and just keeping people safe. Once you take Covid out of the equation we also needed to remember that there have been other things happening and other things to focus on. People still need to live and be mentally well as well as being physically safe, and this has been difficult as we’ve had to cancel a lot of plans.
We’ve also unfortunately lost people in the past year, which has been incredibly difficult. Losing people is always heart-breaking, but as a supported living service it’s also something we aren’t used to. It has meant that we’ve had to focus on morale and helped figure out new ways to help people to cope with losing a loved one because Covid means we can’t grieve in the same way.
One thing we did was a balloon release, which meant all the clients got to say goodbye in their own way. We also make sure that our service users have their own personalised funeral plans. We’re really big on making sure that people make their own choices for their end of life care and funeral arrangements.
A client, who was near the end of his life, had a wish to go into space. We organised a planetarium to visit a local church so that all the stars and planets could be projected onto the walls. Experts came and gave talks about all the different bits of space too. Unfortunately, he was too poorly to attend so instead one staff member facetimed the whole event so he could watch it from bed.
How did it feel to be awarded Registered Manager of the Year?
I was really shocked when I won the award! I got a standard Achieve Q award a month or so earlier so I didn’t expect it at all! It was very humbling, but I want to say that it was definitely a team effort. Everything we’ve done we’ve done as a team, and it also wouldn’t have been possible without our amazing Support Coordinators – Chloe Thompson and Natalie Keighron. My job is a dream because of the people I work with and I can’t take credit. All 70 of my staff are highly skilled and have incredible values and a brilliant ethos.
Are there any women who have inspired you?
I’m inspired everyday by my incredible team! Leanne Paterson, Area Manager in Doncaster and Sheffield Supported Living Services, inspires me with her incredible work ethic and values.
I’m also really inspired by my clients and their resilience because how can you not be? They are all so wonderful, deal with anything that comes along as best they can and carry on. They just get on with it and really make you appreciate the small things in life.
In your opinion, how do you think society could change to become a more equal place?
I’m very lucky and haven’t been subject to any sexism in the workplace so to me it feels quite equal. I think it’s ridiculous that prejudice like racism and sexism etc. even exist in the world today. It was great to see the BLM campaign last year, and hopefully more change will come from that.
Creative Support is great and provides a lot of support to staff as well as service users. We have a very open culture, and if anything comes up like sexism or racism, I wouldn’t accept it – I would make sure it was dealt with immediately, but thankfully there haven’t been any instances of it where I work.
What advice would you give to others?
Try your best – no-one can ask you to try anything more than your best, and you will be rewarded for trying. If you don’t know the answer or how to go about something, always ask for help. Creative Support is a very supportive organisation and you should never feel scared to ask for advice from people as they will never judge you and will in fact be happy you had the initiative to ask for help. There are so many levels of support too, and your local team can also help support you.
You should also never forget your basics no matter how far you go; these are your foundation and will be the base of everything you do.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
How can I say anything other than lockdown lifting?! We had a lot of plans at our service which were unfortunately cancelled or postponed because of Covid-19. One of our big focusses is on encouraging people to achieve their hopes and dreams! We had a lot of plans before Covid to help people, both staff and service user-wise, which we’re looking forward to making happen this year. I’m really looking forward to being a witness to everyone living their dreams again!
We also have a yearly garden party which couldn’t go ahead last year, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we can have it in some way in August/September this year! We’re working to create a sensory garden at the moment and doing a lot of fundraising for it so hopefully when the garden party goes ahead, everyone will be able to see our new sensory garden at the same time!
Interview with Samina
We spoke to Samina, a Support Coordinator at our Dudley Hub and Outreach Services. Samina is an active member of her local community who has consistently gone above and beyond to help others. Inspired by her dad who worked tirelessly to support their local community, she has set up a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) support group, a charity to provide tuition to vulnerable children who otherwise couldn’t afford it and has been working hard to encourage people in her local community to get the Covid-19 vaccine.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
I started working at Creative Support in June 2016, almost five years ago. I started as a Support Worker, and then four months later I became a Support Coordinator. I’ve always worked in care in some capacity; I used to work for the Council, then I worked for the Department of Work and Pensions in welfare rights and benefits. I have also worked at Rethink where I helped vulnerable communities and have done a lot of voluntary work with Dudley Mind and other places.
I was the first female in my family to learn to drive. It was inspirational because it gave myself independence and allowed me to become a role model to other women in my family. I was also the first female to go to college, and work for the council.
At secondary school I encountered bullying and racism, which I was reluctant to tell my parents about. I found the school was unhelpful and I had to learn to cope with it myself.
We had to learn to live with racism. I know I shouldn’t think like that, but it’s only when you’ve experienced it yourself, or know someone closely who has been the target of racism, that you see the truth of it- it’s a real eye opener. A lot of people who don’t experience racism know it as much more filtered down that what it actually is.
For years I felt like I didn’t fit in at school, or work, etc. but now I’ve created my own world and have adapted things that I found important to fit into my life. I wanted to carve out my own space for myself and my family.
Can you tell me about your work recently, and what motivated you to do it (in relation to your Covid-19 vaccination efforts in your area)
My Covid-19 work at the moment is mainly with the BAME community, as lots of individuals have refused the vaccine. They were so negative about it and had heard so many myths, and I knew this was something we needed to take action to make positive change.
I spoke to the local GP in the area, who was really passionate about engaging with people and giving them information about the vaccine. At that time, I hadn’t had the chance to get the vaccine yet, but the GP had, so she was able to reassure people and say “Look, I’ve had the vaccine, I’m feeling fine!”
We managed to share a poster myself and the GP created, as well as a video that we made that spoke to people in a way that was comfortable and easier to understand. We had discussions with the service users and shared the video. Myself and my colleagues called people individually to offer more advice or if we could help dispel any myths – people seemed massively reassured by this. I previously knew individuals who were uncertain receiving the vaccine however, after our campaign they agreed to get the vaccine.
Alongside this, we offered one-to-one consultations nearly every other day and encouraged people to talk about the vaccine with their families and friends. We also shared podcasts and radio shows with people so they could see for themselves that the majority of the negative was false.
We have over 400 service users who we support, and we’re still having discussions with each person to encourage them to get the vaccine and dispel any myths. We’re going to continue to help until we have spoken to everyone.
We also shared a video in Urdu which promotes getting Covid-19 tests as it was highlighted that the BAME community were reluctant to have the tests, but we wanted to show how simple and easy it really was. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGWzcchNPis&feature=youtu.be)
As a woman, and a member of the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic community, how do you think society needs to change to become a more equal place, and how could we be more inclusive and appreciative of diversity?
I think people need to learn more about integration, religions, and race from an earlier time in their life. It needs to be filtered through education, as well as parents and carer’s. Children can be nurtured and their way of thought can be changed, but it’s more difficult to help people when they’re older.
The media should use more Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic presenters and celebrities, including more stories revolving around central characters who are from different religions or cultures.
Who are some of the women who have inspired you?
I was really inspired by Benazir Bhutto and she motivated me by being a woman elected in a Muslim state with lots of men. She gave a lot of us hope and had strong leadership skills.
Michelle Obama is also a very good role model to me. She is a devoted mother as well as a woman who worked as a lawyer. She accomplished so much, and her mission to get women into work was inspirational.
I’m also inspired by Malala Yousafzai and the fact that she stood her ground. She’s such an aspirational person.
What advice would you give to others?
I would say that we should embrace each other and value our communities by educating ourselves and others around us to keep informed. I feel everyone should have the same opportunities in developing in careers, education and job opportunities.
What are you looking forward to in 2021?
I hope to be able to develop myself and progress my career at Creative Support. I am really passionate about supporting others, and leading a service.
Lockdown significantly affected our service, so we’re working around positive steps to opening safely again. We’re working on supporting staff as well as service users to deal with face-to-face support, researching, and are working alongside other organisations to offer group gatherings safely.
Currently we are practicing the Jeruselma dance as a team-building exercise, and it is something we will share on International Women’s Day! It’s a bit of a shame because we normally book a community hall and have a community celebration with other services.