This thought leadership article is written by Mark Beadle, Chair of Lifeways Group and Championing Social Care Ambassador.
You meet two types of people who work in social care – those for whom it was a calling and a life plan, and those who fall into it unexpectedly.
Care was a calling for a friend of mine who grew up in the care home that his parents had opened.
Yet for me, care certainly wasn’t a day-one career choice. Not only was work in this sector not even Plan B on my life list, it wasn’t even on my list at all. I fell into care by accident – but I’m so grateful that I did!
When I left university back in 1989, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. So I trained as an accountant to gain a marketable skill – and to buy some time to think about my next steps.
Then, after leaving the profession and becoming a finance director in hospitality and media, I went to the Priory Group in 2003 to do a consulting project for a couple of months. And 20 years later, I’m still in the care sector!
What’s kept me here? Very simply, it’s people – the people we support and the people who do it. I also appreciate working for organisations where what we do really matters.
At the time I’d joined the Priory Group, I had two girls under the age of three. Which is probably why at Priory, contact with the children the provider supported initially had the biggest impact on me.
I remember going to one of our schools that looked after children with Asperger’s Syndrome, and meeting a boy who had come to us having been bullied at his former school and attempting suicide.
That child was transformed during his stay at our school. He got his life back – and his parents got their son back.
I was then similarly moved when I met adolescents in Priory’s eating disorders and general mental health units, as well as meeting adults receiving treatment for addictions, depression, and other conditions.
Since then, I’ve worked as an executive and as a non-executive for residential, domiciliary care and hospital providers, who mainly support people with learning difficulties or mental health conditions.
The magic ingredient
All of these organisations strived to provide the very best care that they could.
And they all had a magic ingredient.
The magic ingredient was the staff – the collective skill, dedication, care, and love of the teams of carers, nurses, doctors, teachers, cleaners, porters, chefs, and gardeners, who together delivered the care, education, and hospitality each and every day that made the difference to so many lives.
I now have the privilege to chair both Lifeways Group, the UK’s largest supported living specialist that supports almost 5,000 people across the country to live more fulfilling, independent lives; and Springfield Healthcare, which operates six elderly care homes and a domiciliary care service across Yorkshire.
Both organisations have kind, compassionate, caring, and dedicated colleagues of whom we are very proud.
Unfortunately, whilst we had a brief period when the nation clapped for carers on its doorsteps, the vital work that the care sector does is largely undervalued – except by the people we support and their families.
However, our sector offers exciting and fulfilling careers for people with a wide range of interests and talents to be frontline care workers, IT gurus, marketers, and so on.
There’s even been room for an escaped accountant like me. I cannot recommend a career in the care sector highly enough!