Posted 9th January 2019

NorseCare recognises International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is on Friday 8th March 2019. A career in care has often been seen as an occupation that attracts women, and the statistics from NorseCare, Norfolk’s largest care provider do support that premise. NorseCare employs over 1,600 people in care homes and housing with care schemes in Norfolk. Over 90% of them are women, including Managing Director, Karen Knight and Human Resources Director Helen Rothwell. The International Women’s Day 2019 campaign theme of “BalanceforBetter” is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.

Helen Rothwell explained: “We are proud to have the opportunity to support our staff to achieve what they wish to in terms of their career, including creating the right environment for women to get the right support to develop within their careers. Personally, I can balance a challenging role with having a fulfilling family life and out of work achievements. NorseCare’s profile is predominantly female, our management teams in homes and schemes are 90% female, and we have a values-based approach to working. These enable us to support each other to set realistic challenges for ourselves and to make time for personal aspirations in line with our values, leading to greater wellbeing which has a positive impact of those who work with us.

We offer a variety of flexible working arrangements for staff and we offer an enhanced occupational maternity pay, and enhanced paternity pay. We have a high percentage of females who return from maternity leave to work with us again, many opting for flexible working. We also offer job share and career break opportunities.”

In an extended interview with three of NorseCare’s managers, NorseCare took a detailed look at the role of women in care. Charli Alderton, Claire Barnard and Adina Burt, who are deputy managers and managers in NorseCare homes and housing with care schemes met to discuss their careers and being a woman in the care industry.

NorseCare: How did you get into care work?

Charli: I was 16 and I was doing my A-Levels and I started off working in a Nursing home across the road from my house washing up and making cups of tea. I wanted to get into nursing and thought that this was a good opportunity to get a bit of experience being in that environment.

Claire: I worked in retail when I was a teenager and I was looking in the local newspaper and saw all the care worker jobs in there. My mum, who was a midwife, explained to me what was involved and I thought, ‘I could do that’. I applied for the NHS as a care worker for people with disabilities and I was successful! I loved it and did not look back.

Adina: My background is actually in nursing. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to be an electrician like my dad, but my mum said to me ‘that’s not a career for a girl’ and she wanted me to follow her footsteps in nursing.

NorseCare: How long have you been working in the care sector and what role/s have you taken?

Charli: Since I was 16, I started off as a kitchen assistant – that was 14 years ago! I started off cooking the meals, then I was a care assistant, activities assistant, senior carer, then team leader, then deputy manager.

Claire: It’s been 14 years for me too. I have been a care assistant, a team leader, a supervisor and a Deputy Manager. I was a Care assistant in Southampton for the NHS, then moved up to Norfolk, working for a care agency and then worked as agency care staff. After I took a Team Leader role, I was able to join NorseCare’s Emerging Talent Programme and have recently become Deputy Manager at The Meadows housing with care scheme.

Adina: When I was 18, I was a general nurse and when I came to the UK, I worked in social care. I’ve worked for NorseCare for over 10 years now, progressing up to my current role as Manager, so I’m really proud of the progression I’ve made.

What does your job involve?

Charli: Primarily I’m making sure that the residents’ care needs are all met and I also lead and manage the staff. I liaise with the GP, social services, and any other professionals.

Claire: I’d say I’m the link between everybody! I communicate with the staff, the tenants, their families, also external bodies as well and making sure we are developing good relationships and following CQC standards, acting in a caring, safe, effective, responsive and well-led manner.

Adina: Oh, my job as a Deputy Manager varies day to day. It involves managing the team on a day to day basis. I make sure that all of the staff are supported and the tenants always come first as this is their home. I also carry out care assessments, liaise with the hospital and all the health and social care organisations.

What is the most challenging and demanding aspect of your job?

Charli: That’s a hard one actually. Every day is a challenge and every day is different, there is no routine. Working in dementia is what makes it enjoyable, I prefer it and love it but it is a challenge.

Claire: I always say I need more hours in the day. Every day is different, I come in with an aim, but then something happens and I have to react immediately. You need to be able to give everyone that person centred care. Fitting everything in is difficult!

Adina: The most challenging aspect of my role is when someone gets angry or upset about something they feel we haven’t got quite right. It is important for me to respond in a calm manner to help resolve the issue in a professional way. Some days are really busy and there is so much to do so that is challenging in itself and there can be complex issues to look after, but it is always rewarding.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Charli: Helping new residents settle into the environment and seeing the families is great. Ensuring that the residents and families are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Claire: Seeing everyone smile; seeing the compliments; having and giving the feedback to my colleagues and seeing the smiles on their face. We have a map of our local area and I enjoy showing everything we have been able to do from our scheme. The tenants can see this as well as the staff and it’s something to be really proud of. We have also done some Dementia Excellence training, which includes gathering ideas and pledges from the staff and tenants. It’s amazing seeing all of the ideas from staff, tenants, families come to life.

Adina: The most rewarding part of my role is making a difference in people lives. It’s about making people smile. The most amazing thing is when someone thanks you for something that you’ve done, whether it’s supporting them to a hospital appointment or contacting their family, or even something small like holding their hand and just being there.

What would you say to someone thinking about a career in care?

Charli: Go for it! You won’t regret it. It is very rewarding, especially within Dementia care. I’m not going to lie, it can be emotional – it’s not just the nice bits of sitting and having a chat and activities, there are some difficult aspects of the job and you have to be resilient. But we are all here to support each other.

Claire: Do it! You get so much fulfilment, it just makes you leave work with a smile on your face every day. If you want to make a change in somebody’s life, then care allows you to do that.

Adina: Some people try a career in care not knowing what to expect. They often have a passion and aspiration to give something back, and for some it is just not for them. This makes me think of a young girl around 7 years ago who wanted to come and do her work placement with NorseCare. We took her on the work placement at 17 and she absolutely loved it, so when she finished her studies she then came and applied for a job with us. We offered her a position of Casual Care and Support Worker and then shortly after she was appointed a contracted Care Support Worker position. We then really nurtured her and she progressed into a team leader post and then became a Deputy Manager until finally she secured a manager position within NorseCare. I think this is one of my proudest moments, watching someone grow and secure their dream job. When she was offered the manager position, she even said to me ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.’ It made me really proud.

What have you learned from a female resident/tenant to help you in your career?

Charli: Always make your voice heard. I’ve worked with a lot of female residents who have been headmistresses, university lecturers and travelled the world – many powerful positions. Going back a while now, there was resident called Joy. She never married but she had lots of nieces and nephews and she was a very independent woman. She was a school headmistress. I got on really well with her and learned a lot from her.

Claire: There’s been so many! I think you learn from everybody. I’ve spoken to a lot of tenants throughout about their jobs and careers and getting their life history. It has been so interesting to see where women have come and what direction they choose to go. Some were stay-at-home mums and they were the housekeepers and that was their job. That was an important job for them! This gave them fulfilment and that’s what they chose to do. Others had completely different personalities – some had been in the WAF, late in motherhood, worked in all sorts of industries. My Nan travelled the world, met my Grandad, had children, then worked in a call centre. Motherhood and having a family doesn’t stop you! Taking those different life experiences, there’s always something to learn.

Adina: Resilience. There’s a lady who is 93 years old and she has battled cancer three times in her life. In the last 6 months she had breast cancer and then had to have an operation, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and then she lost her son before Christmas. She has gone through all of these awful things but every time I see her she has a smile on her face.

Sometimes when you feel that there is no solution, you don’t have to make an instant decision, just sleeping on it or talking to someone can make a big difference. Being resilient is not easy but it’s about picking yourself up and carrying on. This particular lady is a great example of this and still has dreams and aspirations.

As a woman and in support of International Women’s Day, how do you see yourself in your role with NorseCare?

Charli: I suppose that I am a role model to all of the younger staff who come through, that you can still have a career and a family and you need to get that balance right. Care has always been a predominantly female career, but it’s nice to see the women in senior positions.

Claire: I’m inspired by every single woman who I work alongside with – tenants, staff and families. They make me strive to be a better person and a role model to my daughter and to my niece. And being part of NorseCare, they’re allowing and encouraging me to fulfil my dreams, regardless of being a woman or not.

Adina: I think it’s great to recognise women and their achievements in the working world compared to years ago. Women can have the responsibilities, progress in their career and have families – anyone can do anything they want if they put their mind to it. I would say don’t be afraid to explore opportunities and test the waters.

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