I WAS INSPIRED to write this book* because there is nothing out there to give an overview of the various statutory and private parts of our English adult social care scene. Then I realised it would be a rather dull affair with lots of statistics and facts, so I decided to include personal stories of existing leaders in the sector and some exercises for readers who are early in their careers – be it as personal assistants, care workers, residential home managers, social workers, voluntary sector organisers or policy wonks. The exercises enable folk to think about what they want out of their career/life balance now and in the future.
I will always be grateful to Terry Dafter, Stockport DASS, who offered the first interview. He spoke very honestly about growing up with a mother who was bi-polar and how that influenced his choice of career. This touched me particularly since my life has also been affected by bi-polarity.
The most moving story is undoubtedly that of Meg Barbour whose husband developed dementia not long after retiring from a successful career. She describes most effectively the devastating effect on them both and their family – not helped by the complexity of navigating through the maze of different health and care professionals. Yet the huge difference which was made by a little regular support from an Age Concern `flexible carer’... The experience drove her to become a voluntary local leader setting up a dementia luncheon club.
My first wife was Jamaican, so I was especially happy to include the story of Andrene Lewis-Longwe who had to nurse both her grandmothers in their last years - starting aged 17. She left a local government job in Jamaica to become a care worker in England and then took advantage of the opportunities created by personal budgets to set up a social enterprise offering trips and holidays to direct payment recipients in Nottingham.
Sharon Allen and Debbie Sorkin were both very kind at the launch event, in saying how the stories are an excellent way of inspiring leadership – close to the hearts of the merged NSA and Skills for Care organisations, of course.
I took something of a chance at the launch in asking the couple of dozen sector leaders to hold off the canapés and drinks and take part in a short exercise based on the book but also informed by my training in organisational constellations work. Four symbols are interspersed throughout the book representing different rewards that can be obtained in the sector:
These symbols were positioned in the four corners of the room and people were asked to stand closest to the symbol or symbols representing the rewards they felt in their current job. I gave as example my job as Business Development Manager for Northgate Social Care before I became an independent consultant. I enjoyed the salary and the mental challenge, so would have stood half way between the pound sign and the brain sign.
The audience was generally well paid, but they clustered between the heart sign and the brain sign. I then asked them all to think back to when they started their careers and interestingly, many moved closer to the pound sign. Few admitted that they were in the business for the sake of public recognition symbolised by the Star sign. I expect that those with quite a high public profile might prefer not to have to deal with the media!
David Pearson is featured in the book – just because I wanted to include an example of the salary and perks of a DASS and I managed to find his more easily than anyone else’s. Of course, a DASS is pretty well paid, but I make the point that their pay is modest compared to directors in the private sector with comparable responsibilities. We must never forget that when certain politicians attack high pay in the public sector.
Finally, perhaps the most surprising thing in the book is that I considered the advice from Dee Hock, founder of VISA, to be the wisest as regards how to be a good manager. You will have to read the book to see why!”
ADASS Associate working for ADASS on informatics for the past 18 months.* Making a Difference in Adult Social Care - Release your leadership ambitions.