Where do I start with my career within Residential Care??
I began my career in 2004 working with Children and Young People who had a range of complex needs including Autism, Epilepsy and Learning Disabilities. At first this was a whole new experience for me coming from my background of Graphic Design and then a Cook/Chef.
I enjoyed my time working with these Children and although I suffered injuries due to their condition or communication difficulties, I took this in my stride and worked hard to make a difference in their lives. There was laughter, tears, temper tantrums and injuries, and that was just the staff!!! Working in children’s social care meant early mornings leaving my home, coming in late at night when my children were almost ready for bed (They were teenagers and I was a single Mum). It was hard for us all but my dedication to those less fortunate than my own children was high on my priority list. I then left to work with Children and Young People who had suffered traumatic events in their lives which unfortunately left them being unable to be cared for in their own homes or with their own families. These children were abused, neglected or in the care of a main care giver unable to give them the most basic care and attention that is required for each child to fulfil their potential.
Throughout my 17 years working in the children’s workforce I believe that I have always given my best and have always gone above and beyond to help these children and young people move forward, to have better self-esteem, self-respect, more opportunities, and a promising future. But I do understand some children are unable to move forward in residential care, and they get caught up in the never-ending cycle of their lives. Some are so neglected and abused before they enter the care system that they are unable to trust the care and empathy on offer.
Being a residential care worker is not an easy job, it is not a 9 to 5 position, it is very long hours, sometimes without sleep, staying overnight at the home where you work, absorbing the emotional verbal and physical abuse young people direct at you like blotting paper and leaving work still thinking about the children and young people you look after.
Completing what appears to be never ending paperwork, ensuring that all the regulations and standards that are inspected by Ofsted are adhered to. Supporting other staff on challenging days, tears of sadness, tears of happiness, tears of frustration and not all related to the children and young people who are in your care. Sometimes it is due to the staff you work with or the company not appreciating what you do, yet as a carer you continue to give the children the care, support, understanding, empathy, warmth and security. They are vulnerable and sometimes a risk to themselves, others and society, so you do your best to safeguard them in the hope that they come to no further harm. Don’t get me wrong there are really good days, like spending the day at a Theme Park, shopping, visiting interesting places and just laughing and being together.
As a residential care worker you give up valuable family time, Christmas. Easter, Birthdays etc as care is not Monday to Friday 9 to 5, these vulnerable children and young people need 24-hour care, 7 days a week, 365 days of the year. Your family see you tired, emotional, injured with black eyes, cuts and bruises, burns and bites, to name but a few. My own children, family, partner and friends have been overwhelmed with some of my injuries. My partner has often been the victim of many stares from others when out in the community due to me having injuries that are visible, these people obviously thinking I am a victim of domestic abuse.
I do remember one really horrible injury which left me with a huge black eye, bruising to my cheek bone and believe me I looked horrendous. Having gone to accident and emergency to check that my cheek bone was not broken I was greeted by the receptionist with the words “domestic abuse?” having informed her that it was a work injury she then stated “I hope you had them arrested”. Mind boggling!!
This resulted in me putting a photograph of my injury on Facebook asking if any worker should have to suffer this. There were a few comments stating that this is part of my job …… let me assure you it is NOT!! The residential care worker should have the same support as the Emergency Services. We do our job to help others, vulnerable children and young people, we don’t for it for the pay… that’s a whole new story!!!
Another comment made to me when I was working with a young person at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation was that “these girls ask for it.” I was incensed… people do not always see the bigger picture and understand what is involved with looking after and caring for such vulnerable children. This is NOT a job it is a vocation!! Many people would not have the patience and understanding to last one day let alone 17 years as I have done.
I have worked in many roles since beginning my career as a Child Care Officer, progressing from a Residential Childcare Worker, Senior Residential Care Worker, Team Leader, Deputy Manager, Peripatetic Senior and Support Worker.
A little over 6 months ago I successfully applied for a Deputy Care Managers position within the company I worked for. I was excited as this was a step forward and with my knowledge and experience I knew I could put my heart and soul into this new role. Then, due to Ofsted refusing to register the newly appointed Manager I was asked if I would like to take the role instead. I was a little unsure at first but after talking to the Responsible Individual and the CEO of the company I felt that they were eager for me to accept the role and appeared to have the confidence in my abilities as did my Manager as he had recommended me for the role. The stress then begins …….
I was asked to complete the SC2 form which is the application for the role of Registered Manager required by regulation. It is a long form with numerous questions to answer which is part of the process. On completion I sent this off along with my NVQ Certificate, my DBS form, and the name of references from previous employers.
Having completed this I then had to complete a Fit Persons Questionnaire, which is much like an essay about your experience, knowledge and skills and your understanding of the legislation and standards within the Child Care industry and how you would ensure these are met in the home you have applied to manage. Then had to complete a Health Declaration and this was then taken to my own Doctor to complete, costing money and having to wait for the surgery to complete this which took almost 6 weeks. In the meantime I was asked to work 9 to 5 Monday to Friday, to ensure that the home was set up ready, this involved ensuring that the relevant paperwork was up to date such as The Statement of Purpose, The Safe Area Report, The Homes Development Plan, The Health and Safety File and numerous other items. This at first was quite strange for me as after having done 17 years of shift work and not working every day I was now working every day which felt strange.
After being contacted several times by Ofsted requesting additional information for my registration, I was finally asked to attend the Fit Persons Interview. This was 3 months after I had completed my initial SC2 form. This in itself is extremely nerve wracking, especially for someone like myself who does not like interviews and always feel that my mind goes blank. During the fit persons interview you are informed that if your application is refused you will be unable to work with children for 5 years. At this point I was extremely stressed and felt like I had entered into a career suicide!! At the end of the interview I was informed that I would be contacted with the outcome. I waited and waited…. and was eventually an Ofsted Inspector phoned to ask if they could arrange a further interview with regards to a safeguarding incident from 2017 which had been bought to their attention when they had contacted one of the Local Safeguarding Board in areas that I had worked. I agreed to attend and during the interview I was asked if I recalled the incident, I confirmed that I did and went on to provide my account of the event.
The incident had happened in the August of 2017, I was a Senior Residential Care Worker at the company I had worked for. At the time of the incident the home had no Manager and we had recently admitted a new Young Person who we knew very little about, (it is not uncommon for Local Authorities not to give all the information) but what we did know was that he had no respect for females, he had been and could be verbally and physically aggressive towards females and did not like to follow boundaries. He was a tall, well built, Young Person and on the day in question he had requested to have further free time in the community but I was unable to give an answer until I had spoken to his Social Worker, the Regional Manager and the House Team.
It was agreed that he could have 2 hours free time and then return to the home for his evening meal and complete some work with staff before going back out for a further 2 hours. This was not the answer he wanted, and he became verbally aggressive towards me, so I asked him to perhaps think about what I had said and then come back to me after he’d calmed down, but he became even more agitated and began to shout. At this point I felt in a very vulnerable position due to being aware of his aggression and I was standing on the landing outside the office at the top of a flight of stairs so I explained that I would return to the office and close the door. With that, I stepped back into the office and closed the door. He then began to curse and shout that I had broken his foot and when I opened the door and he glared at me stating that he was going to call the Police and have me arrested as I had broken his foot at which point other staff members became involved. They took him away from the area and requested to see his foot, he refused this and also refused medical attention.
I was asked to leave (suspended pending investigation) the property which I did at 17.30. I was shaken by the whole incident as within all my years of working I had never had an allegation made against me. I returned to my own home awaiting the outcome. I was contacted the next morning at 9am by the Responsible Individual for the company informing me that LADO had been contacted and all information had been passed on and LADO said that there was nothing to answer to and there was no safeguarding case. I was asked to return to work, however to go to another one of the companies homes. I was also informed that there would be an internal investigation. From when the incident happened in August and being informed that I had to attend a Disciplinary Hearing in November I had not received any support or supervision. I attended the Disciplinary and awaited the outcome. I was informed that I was receiving a Final Written Warning (I had never even had a warning before in my whole career). Due to how I felt about working for the Company I decided there was no point appealing the decision and decided to hand in my resignation.
This was 19 weeks after my initial application had been submitted and after I had given this account to the Ofsted Inspector whilst notes were taken, I had to wait again. Then four stressful weeks later I received a letter from Ofsted which I opened with some trepidation. The letter was a Proposal for Refusal. I was gutted. I had given 17 years of my life to working with vulnerable children, only to be refused registration due to an unfounded allegation because in the eyes of the Ofsted Panel I had put the safety of myself ahead of that of a child when I closed the office door to prevent the situation escalating further and to keep myself safe.
I have spent the last few weeks in a state of disbelief and I have had no alternative but to resign from my post at the Company. I am currently unemployed. The company have withdrawn my application so I am still able to work with vulnerable children if I wish to do so.
At this moment I feel like I have been punched in the stomach. After my dedication of working with children, going above and beyond, keeping in touch with some of the young people I have looked after, keeping in contact with many of the brilliant colleagues I have worked with and putting my family through the hell of my stress, injuries and uncertain moments I truly do not know whether I want to continue.
I now believe that if I had known how stressful and heart wrenching applying for the position of a Registered Manager with Ofsted I would never of applied. These people do not know the real me, they do not know what good I have done, how many children I have had a part of changing their lives for the better, being there for colleagues, managers, family members of the children I have looked after, the hours I have worked and the nights I have not slept, the tears I have cried for the disclosures I have heard, the trauma that these children have suffered.
The process of becoming a Registered Manager puts your career and livelihood at risk and to find out that you are being refused …. Devastating.
If my life story helps another worker to be aware and understand that Ofsted are NOT FAIR I feel that I am still helping.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
Authors name not published