How things change: 36 years transforming lives - FitzRoy
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How things change: 36 years transforming lives

Author: Karen Bond
Published: March 15, 2024

As I prepare to retire after 36 amazing years at FitzRoy,  I have taken the time to stop and think about how much things have changed in social care since I joined as a support worker all those years ago – it really is incredible how far we’ve come.

It sounds almost unbelievable now, but when I first started as a support worker, I wasn’t allowed to support male residents because I wasn’t married. My training was only one week – in the annexe of a pub, as it happened – and that was it, you just got on with the job after that. It’s funny what you remember – my first shift was a late on a Friday, and the chef (yes, we had a chef in those days!) served sweet and sour pork.

There have undoubtedly been huge changes in social care as a sector in the last 36 years. When I started, we didn’t have individual support plans for the people we were working with, and we certainly didn’t have risk assessments. The amount of responsibility support workers have has increased hugely over the years – we never used to give any medications at all. Now, with the right training, it’s normal for support workers to be assisting people with their medication.

The introduction of person-centred care and positive behaviour support have been hugely positive steps, even at an organisation like FitzRoy, where we’ve always put the people at the heart of what we do. Really getting to know the person and what works for them and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work for them, makes such a difference to their experience.

You never stop learning, and the people we support are the very best teachers.

I think FitzRoy has always done what it says on the tin, just as our founders envisaged all those years ago when they were determined that people with learning disabilities should be living in loving, supportive homes, not institutions. That’s why I’ve stayed so long. In fact, one of the people we support here in Grayshott I’ve known for 31 years, which is as long as I’ve known my own daughter!

The people we support are the reason we all come to work every day, and I’ve met so many incredible people over the years – they’ll all stay in my mind when I leave.

When Covid hit, it was obviously a time of huge change for us, but it was amazing how the people we support here coped with it. They’re all an inspiration, they really are. It was like being in our own little bubble world – as key workers, we all kept coming to work, so in that sense it was as close to “business as usual” as it could be during such a strange time, but the roads were absolutely empty. It was wonderful how the whole organisation pulled together to make sure we continued to provide the best possible care – the support we got at the services from the head office team was brilliant.

I’ll be really sad to leave after so long, but I know the service will be in very good hands.

The new manager was a senior support worker here before, so she knows the service and the people we support really well, which is lovely. I think my team thought I was joking when I originally told them I was leaving – then they threatened to tie me to my chair so I couldn’t go! But with the new manager already being so familiar with FitzRoy and this service, it’ll be “the same, but different,” which I hope is reassuring for both the staff and the residents.

There have been many incredible moments during my time at FitzRoy – far too many to list – but one thing I will never forget was going to the Queen’s garden party with Kirsty, our Head of Quality, in May 2019. Anna, FitzRoy’s Chief Executive, met us afterwards for champagne, which was a lovely end to an unforgettable day.

What would I say to someone thinking about starting a career in social care now? Well, I think the crux of it is that you either have a passion for the job, or you don’t. And if you’re not passionate about transforming people’s lives, every day, this isn’t the job for you. You’ve got to want to do it, and really and truly have the mindset that the people we support absolutely are at the heart of everything we do. I would like to thank all the people we support at Donec Mews for making me want to come to work every day.

Thank you.

Karen Bond

Donec Mews Service Manager

FitzRoy support worker since 1988, service manager since 2003