Paul Bridge, Chief Executive Social Housing at Civitas Investment Management, tells us what he wishes people knew about social care! A huge thank you to the whole Civitas Investment Management team for sponsoring Care Home Open Week this year!
I’ve worked in social housing for over 30 years, most recently as CEO of Social Housing at Civitas, but prior to that I’ve run various housing associations including Homes For Haringey. For me, what stood out most whilst working in the sector are the normal, everyday parts of my life which we all take for granted, which for us are just part of being an independent adult. Making myself a coffee in the morning; choosing what to watch on TV or browse online; calling a friend or popping in to see a relative. The ordinary stuff that makes life worth living, which for adults with complex needs and disabilities, can be difficult to accomplish without support, and without a stable home in the community.
At Civitas we believe it’s essential for the most vulnerable people in society to have the opportunity to live in a high quality home with appropriate support and in their own community. Until quite recently people with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders or Down Syndrome were often institutionalised in a hospital setting on large wards along with many people struggling with a range of other disabilities, living in a setting unsuitable for their care needs. We now know that such a setting does not always result in the best health and wellbeing outcomes for such people.
Civitas invests in high quality, specially adapted homes, with professional, long term care packages, enabling people to live life as fully and independently as they are able. Seeing people with disabilities finally moving into long term housing in a community setting, near family and friends and for the first time in their lives living independently, is incredibly rewarding. Seeing someone being able to live well, and to enjoy the everyday pleasures most of us take for granted, is an aspect of social care I find incredibly satisfying. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the reason why so many of us continue to love working in social care, despite the well known challenges of the sector. Watching tenants blow out their birthday candles on a cake, walk to the shops on their own or make dinner with their carers, is wonderful and in some ways watching the joy this brings to those people makes me appreciate aspects of my own life more. All of these things may seem like quite trivial tasks to most but it’s something I wish more people knew and appreciated about the rewards of working in social care.
This aspect of working in specialist social housing means a great deal to me. Transforming the lives of vulnerable people across the UK is not only personally rewarding but essential in order to continue to move people out of unsuitable institutional living and tackle the huge demand for social housing. At Civitas we recently commissioned a book ‘A Place For Me’, by Polly Braden and Sally Williams, which celebrates the improving personal outcomes of adults living with disabilities. Each participant tells their story of coming to live in their own home, having previously lived in a hospital, institution, or having struggled with homelessness and unsuitable accommodation. People like Carole, previously sectioned in a secure hospital, now living in the community and able to express her passion for bold fashion and 70s music. Or Simon, who has learning disabilities, who says his sense of liberty has expanded since moving into his Civitas home, where he is able to go out more with his carers.
If you had asked me at the start of my career what I thought I knew about social care, I would have given you lots of statistics about demographic requirements, social outcomes and public policy. All those things are important, of course, but I wish everyone starting out in the career could know what I know now – that the real satisfaction comes from seeing people thrive from enjoying the little, everyday things that most of us take for granted.