Meet Laura, an everyday hero working as a Deputy Manager of a Residential Children’s Home, Safeguarding Team at Shropshire Council.
Below Laura has shared her story to show what a career as a Deputy Manager is like.
What's your role in a nutshell?
I am currently a deputy manager in a residential children’s home, we provide support for some of Shropshire’s most vulnerable children. The children have had numerous relationship and placement breakdowns leading to them becoming looked after by the local authority. Looking after children who have experienced such significant trauma can be challenging but ensuring they are safe and happy is our primary role.
Was this a planned career or one you fell into?
Initially I fell into it. I came back from travelling when I was 21 and was told my personality would suit working in children’s residential care, so I started on a casual zero hours basis and developed into a shift leader. I left to pursue a social work qualification and do that role - which seemed the common sense thing to do. The trouble for me being a social worker, is that it took me away from people – there was just too much paperwork and too much time behind a computer. I disliked this aspect of the work and missed closely working with young people, this led me back to work in residential care where we work directly with children. I’ve now worked my way up to become Deputy Manager.
Are you a doer, manager or leader?
All three. I’m a manager as I manage the rotas, the building etc, a leader as I look after a team of 11 carers and shift workers - but I still really enjoy being a doer. I love the hands on aspects of the role – for example taking the children in our care to school, helping to get them ready as any parent would, supporting them when they have had a bad day or watching a movie together.
What do you love best & love least about your job?
Work-life balance is what I love the least. This job is hard to switch off from especially managing full time hours and in addition a busy on call rota.
It’s working with the children that I love best, and their families, sometimes it’s the little things that make such a difference. For example I took a young person to Greggs for the first time, she hadn’t had that ‘life experience’ before! Some of our children are really damaged by their history – this sort of normal everyday experience becomes so special.
I also love that some of our children keep in touch into their adult lives – inviting colleagues to life events such as their wedding. It’s so humbling - our role has been to protect them from their own harmful family situation and to be a better parent for them.
Do you need: Qualifications? University or apprenticeship or special skills?
To be a residential care worker it’s far more about having the right personality than lots of formal qualifications as we like to train people up and ‘grow our own’ here in Shropshire. The essential personal skills include empathy, understanding, patience, listening, resilience – and of course caring – that’s the most important of all – you need to want to provide a high level of care for that young person, however challenging their behaviour.
You do need GCSE in English and Maths, and a level 3 NVQ in Children’s and Young People is worth pursuing too.
Routine or variety?
Hard to plan a week! As well as the children in the residential home we also respond to any queries regarding children on Shropshire’s Child Protection Register - we are called out to check on children in the community, or children in fostering placements, we get called in to help stop the placement breaking down.
Pay check or calling?
It’s all about the job satisfaction, yes I get reasonably well paid but it’s the difference I make to children’s lives that gets me up in the morning. I’m so glad I have a ‘work place’ to go to too – I’d be dreadful working from home and while Covid means we’ve changed many things, we still come into work.
Is there development support available or is it DIY?
For me recent online courses have been on Children’s Sexual Exploitation and Physical Restraints Training.
The residential service offers a package of training suitable for all carers, new or experienced, now all being delivered online due to the pandemic. We have individualised training for each home so we can support the different young people the local authority supports. This has included consultation with a psychotherapist which has informed our care and therapeutic approaches.
Staying put or moving on?
Staying put. I have so much more to give in my role, but do want to progress up the management levels.
Can you share a life lesson or specific career advice?
People think residential care is like Tracy Beaker (the fictional children’s book) – it just isn’t. I found out the hard way, seeing a fire extinguisher being thrown at a new social worker!
But do it! It’s such a rewarding career, you are working with the most challenging and vulnerable children that Shropshire has and you can make a difference to their lives.
The best thing about working for the Council is…being really appreciated. The commitment to children shines though at every level in Shropshire Council.
Just last week I got a letter from the Director of Children’s Services quoting my manager with a personal thanks for my work at this time. It was specific to me and gave examples about my fun, optimistic, upbeat and positive attitude being contagious in the team. It’s the little things like that that make me feel really valued.
Laura, is an #EverydayHero, working to change and make better the lives of others and you can be an #EverydayHero too. Click here to find roles currently available within Management.
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