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Career Journeys at Together

At Together we support our staff with career pathways with supportive and inspirational colleagues, learning and qualifications. Below are examples of members of our team who have developed their careers at Together:

Working at NIHCSS with Senior Recovery Worker Tim Bonfield

Tim Bonfield is a Senior Recovery Worker with NIHCSS who works in the community supporting people experiencing mental distress. In this film he describes how his role is both rewarding and challenging with no two days being the same. The team work closely in collaboration with colleagues and together with supporting professionals from other agencies, especially in crisis situations to get their service users the help they need. Tim describes how life experience has equipped him in his role which calls for him to be resilient, calm under pressure, and understanding and accepting of the people he works with.

Together Career Pathways: Lauren Gillings – Operations and Development Manager

Lauren joined Together in June 2015 as a Recovery Worker in the Wellingborough Service and is now Operations and Development Manager for Accommodation and Community based services.

From June 2015 until April 2016 Lauren was employed as a Recovery Worker.

Lauren then applied by expression of interest for a Senior Recovery Worker Role. Emma Edwards, who was Operations and Development Manager (ODM) at the time, chatted to Lauren, as Lauren had some reservations about taking on the role. After talking to Emma she decided to proceed and successfully was recruited. Lauren held this role April 2016 to autumn 2016.

At the time there was a Project Manager in the service, but it was a challenging environment to work in. Lauren decided to look for another job and was successful at getting one at St Andrews and intended to leave Together. However, the Project Manager left and Emma asked Lauren to stay and take on Deputy Project Manager role. Lauren was already undertaking lots of aspects of this role such as producing the rota. Again it was Emma who convinced Lauren to stay and take on this role.

Lauren held this role for about a year. The arrangement of a clinical manager didn’t work out and Lauren took on the Project Manager Role. Lauren held this role until 2019 when there was a need for ODM cover role. Emma Edwards, and Sarah Thompson Turvey, asked Lauren how she would feel covering this role for services in Hampshire and Northamptonshire.

Lauren said she enjoyed this role. Then in February of that year the permanent role came up and Lauren applied and has been doing the job for 2 years.

The people that Lauren worked with that inspired and mentored you, the role models. 

Emma Edwards, Lauren’s line manager was a big help, as helped Lauren with confidence, encouragement, support that she could do the role. Lauren’s own self believe, resilience and drive to learn definitely helped her in her career progression.

Whilst studying Sarah Thompson-Turvey has supported Lauren to have the time needed to complete her studies and to balance work and education.

The learning and development that supported Lauren’s growth to where she is today.

Lauren undertook CQC Level 5 Qualification that was needed for her role and successfully completed this. By undertaking it Lauren realised/affirmed how much she already knew about her role.

Before Lauren joined Together she was a Psychology Undergraduate and has a psychology degree.

Lauren has just finished her Master’s Degree in Occupational Psychology. This focuses more on the business side of psychology, which Lauren feels is very beneficial, as looks at high functioning work place. This has helped her evaluate her own work role and that of others such as being supportive to others and the wellbeing of staff teams. Lots of other people who completed the course are from corporate world, therefore, there has been opportunity for learning from both sides and reflection. She felt it was good to connect with people outside of work.

Lauren is a member of British Psychological Society – main benefits are keeping up to date in the practice as get sent lots of articles.

All of these things helps Lauren to not become complacent and stops her from stagnating along with being relevant to her job.

Lauren expressed her genuine interest in mental health and psychology. Lauren feels having a lot of support from a good manager definitely has helped her. Additionally, Lauren pushing herself, being resilient, having confidence and self belief and willingness to step outside her comfort zone has helped. It definitely helps having support of someone saying ‘you can do it’.

Together Career Pathways: Richard Broad – Operations and Development Manager

Richard joined Together in April 2002 by way of application, as Project Worker in our accommodation service in Bexhill on Sea. Today, August 2021, Richard is the Operations and Development Manager for our CQC accommodation based services.

Richard’s journey through Together

2002 – Richard joined Lawn Court as a Project Worker.

Richard didn’t join Together with any ambitions to progress.  He just wanted to be the best project worker he could.

There were 2 things that really stood out for Richard which influenced his career journey

  1. Richard had a fantastic manager when he first joined, Sandra Collins.  Richard had been working at Lawn Court for 2 days, he had sat and spent time chatting to service users and took a couple of service users for ice cream and coffee.  Richard didn’t feel he was doing enough.  He sat down with Sandra and expressed his concerns.  Sandra said what he was doing was the most important part of his role, spending time with service users and getting to know them.  Sandra never allowed staff to read a service users files.  She wanted them to get to know the people they supported as people, not a diagnoses or casefile.
  2. He was asked by the Deputy Manager to go to a forensic mental health unit regarding a referral to the service.  Richard was a project worker, and felt out of his depth when they spoke about sections, CTO’s, section 37 and 41 and he felt angry he had been put into that position.  But on reflection whilst he felt out of his depth and felt he hadn’t done a good job, he recognised that the Deputy Manager believed he had the confidence to go to that referral.  He was spurred on to learn more about people’s rights and was able to recognise when an external agency was trying to implement something that they had no right to which led to better outcomes for service users.

He started to really see where his role was making positive change.

2006 – Senior Project Worker, Lawn Court

Richard’s manager Sandra always wanted to push people to be the best they could.  She would encourage them and promoted training and learning.  She wanted to see people grow in their career.  It was Sandra that encouraged Richard to apply for the Senior post.

As Lawn Court was on the South Coast and they were mainly left to manage the service, this led Richard to explore different ways of working to ensure the service users were encouraged to lead their own support and say what worked for them and what didn’t.

2009 – Project Co-ordinator, Lawn Court
In 2009 there was a restructure of positions.  They lost the deputy roles and changed project managers to project co-ordinators.  The change in role led to the manager taking redundancy and the post of Project Co-ordinator became vacant.  Richard applied for the position and was successful.

This role enabled Richard to really think about what it was an individual service user wanted.

He wanted to develop a culture where we could say yes more to service users around things that supported their wellbeing.  Richard also made small changes that made Lawn Court feel like a home for people.  For example, all new service users would receive a welcome pack which contained the basic essentials such as shower gel, toothbrush, toothpaste.  Little things that meant a lot.

2018 – Operations and development manager

Richard was happy as Project Co-ordinator.  An interim Acting up ODM post became available and Richard was asked if he would consider taking up that post as he had supported another service going through a difficult time with excellent results.  A few months later, the permanent role of ODM for accommodation based services became vacant and Richard was successful.

Who inspired you and were your role models?

Sandra Collins Richard’s first Project Manager – she saw potential in Richard and always encouraged him in his role.

Anne Beales, Mandy Chainey and the Service User Leadership Team.  Looking back, this team inspired him to look at the tangible benefits to changing people’s lives.  They helped to highlight the importance of the voice of people using services. An example being:-  in order to achieve a 5 star hygiene rating service users were not allowed to use the kitchen unless the cook was there.  Richard wanted to allow service users to be able to use the kitchen outside of those time to promote more independence and less reliance on staff.  This meant the rating went from 5 star to 4 star and that was ok.

Learning that has supported Richard’s journey

  • 5 day induction to Together – it helped Richard see how he could be the best project worker for that service and gave a great overview of the values of the organisation
  • NVQ – this was carried out in-house when we had in-house trainers and assessors
  • Together’s Management Development Programme – delivered by Wendy Rankin, external trainer
  • Action Learning Sets.

Networks

Richard is still part of the Skills for Care manager network.  Being a manager in a specific service type can be a lonely place and this allowed him to feel less isolated. He was able to be with other people in the same service types where they could problem solve together and support each other.

Together Career Pathways: Tracy Moss – Operations and Development Manager

Tracy joined Together in September 2007 by way of application as an IMCA – Independent Mental Capacity Advocate.  Tracy was based at the Wakefield Advocacy Service.  Unbelievably Tracy was not the first choice for the role!

Today, August 2021, Tracy is the Operations and Development Manager for our community based advocacy services in Rochdale, Wakefield and Knowsley.

Tracy’s journey through Together

2007 – Tracy started her journey as an IMCA in Wakefield.

2009 – A vacancy for a full time project manager came up in the service.  At the time there were only 2 staff, Tracy who was full time and another IMCA who was part time.  Tracy was encouraged to apply and the part time worker also applied.  The decision was made to make this a job share post.

2010 – Tracy’s living arrangements changed and Tracy had to make a difficult decision to leave Together and take a job nearer home with an external organisation.

The organisation turned out to be very poor.  Tracy was bullied and this really drove home to her how amazing Together was.  Together’s values around service user leadership were something that were really important to Tracy and how support for staff was as important as support for service users which Tracy was not getting from her new employer.

2011 – Tracy was desperate to leave and return to Together if this was a possibility. She contacted Together to ask if there were any opportunities and was told we had just won a contract in St Helen’s advocacy and there was an 18hr part time IMCA position.  Tracy applied and was successful.

2012 – Together won the contract for Rochdale advocacy to manage a Team of Volunteers to deliver Low level Advocacy and a project manager was required. Tracy was asked to act up into this role and was overjoyed as it meant she was able to develop a brand new model of Advocacy support within Together.  The contract was full time for 12 months and Tracy worked hard to get the new model designed and up and running.  The model was so successful that Rochdale Council expanded the funding and Tracy became the permanent Project Manager.  Other agencies and local authorities recognised the success of this model and Together went on to win another advocacy contract.

2014 and 2015– Together won another advocacy contract in Rochdale which was our Rochdale Advocacy Hub.  Again this was a service that Tracy designed and moved forward.

2015 – A vacancy for an 11 hour ODM became available which Tracy really wanted to apply for.  She wanted to be in a role that would help bring changes and had a number of ideas to put Advocacy on the map.  As this was only an 11 hour post, Tracy also continued on a part time basis to manage the other Advocacy service, juggling the 2 roles.

There were now 7 Advocacy services in the community and Tracy’s ODM role increased to 30 hours per week and she was able to step down from her role as Project Manager.

Who inspired you and were your role models?

Mandy Chainey and the Service User Leadership Team.  Service user leadership made sense to Tracy and was what her service was all about and it felt good to be feel she had others within the organisation that were leading on that model.

Nigel Lobley – ODM for Advocacy in Secure Services – Nigel was always there, right from the beginning of Tracy’s journey.  He would offer advice and support and would work alongside Tracy as a peer.

Tracy was also inspired by Nigel.  He took a sabbatical to work in Hungry to offer advocacy support to adults with mental distress.  In Hungry the way people were treated was very different from the UK.  Nigel was invited to Canada to share the outcomes of the work he did in Hungry.

This was an inspiration to Tracy.

Learning that has supported Tracy’s journey

  • Together’s Management Development Programme – delivered by Wendy Rankin, external trainer
  • Action Learning Sets. The action learning sets came just at the right time for Tracy when she felt she needed that additional support from other staff across Taogether.
  • Person Centred Planning – Tracy was part of an initiative in 2013 looking at person centred planning.  The tools that were shared throughout that initiative are tools that Tracy still uses today.
  • Webinar’s, internet, news, other external policies – these platforms are a regular source of information where she can learn about changes in law and what is happening externally around advocacy
  • Staff team – Tracy’s staff team support each other and share any relative research and any additional learning
  • Solicitors they work with regularly – Tracy learns a lot about the legalities of advocacy work from solicitors who they regularly work with and they often share free training with Tracy and her team

Tracy describes herself as someone who wants to achieve and she wants to drive change within Together and Advocacy services. Tracy thrives on challenges and using her position of ODM to further develop the advocacy services within Together. It is a platform to rise awareness of the work they do.  This role enables room for expression.

Together Career Pathways: Paul Appleby – Recovery Worker, NIHCSS

Paul used Together services, therefore started out as service user – was not sure of the timeline for this. Transitioned on to being a Volunteer Peer Supporter in 2018 at Together Norfolk service Norfolk Integrated Housing and Community Support Service (NIHCSS) and did this role for 1 year. Peer Support Volunteer was via application.

Today, or rather since 9 November 2020 Paul has been a Recovery Worker at NIHCSS service, Boudicca Court, in Norfolk, a partnership service across a number of providers. He is based at Boudicca Court, but role is outreach to community. Paul works for Mind working with in the NIHCSS service and is a partnership staff member.

Paul was a service user and helped run groups. Then transitioned to Volunteer Peer Supporter. Staff at NIHCSS, and the Manager, encouraged Paul to apply for the Recovery Worker Role, which he successfully did.  He started working 3 days a week. Then went onto 4 days a week from April 2021. Then full time from June 2021 – other staff reduced days and he took up these days, after being asked if he would like to. He did find it hard going full time at first, but then got used to this. His role involves working shifts.

The people that Paul worked with that inspired him

Paul said he spent a long time as a service user, therefore, could see good and not so good support in practice, or receiving it himself. When he received support from the NIHCSS service, things changed. Therefore, this helped Paul realise getting the right support was crucial. Paul explained Jit Patel, Support Worker at the service had how much he helped him. Paul also recognised the value that getting more involved himself in helping at informal service user groups had help and inspired him.

As Paul went from being a volunteer into a paid role he decided to start with 3 days, as was not sure how he might cope in this role. Having lived experience, good rapport and understanding helped Paul in his role.

The team and manager have been key in supporting Paul in this role. He was clearly passionate about his job and expressed how much he enjoys it. Of course, there are challenges to but when he sees things change for people, or they achieve their goals it is very rewarding.

Training: Paul has completed all of the E-learning – even ones he did not need to, as enjoys learning and spoke about the power of knowledge. Has attended Suicide training and ligature.

Paul is a member of Together’s National Steering Group (NSG).

Paul keeps up to date with developments in the field via:

  • Training
  • During supervision
  • Online – social media
  • Learning from other agencies.
  • Free online course.

Together Career Pathways: Jo Bailey – Peer Support Worker

Jo joined Together on 17th September 2018, by way of application, as a Peer Support Worker in West Norfolk. Jo remains in this role today.

Jo’s journey with Together

2015/2016 – Jo started using Together service in Norfolk mental health and housing to help with debt issue. Jo’s wellbeing worker told her about a roadshow which Jo attended.

At the roadshow Jo met Anne Beales, head of service user involvement directorate, who spoke very passionately about service user leadership and peer support. Jo also met Maxine and Sandra who went on to become Peer Support Workers under the previous contract. They’d done the Service User Involvement and Leadership training course, and Peer Support training and set up a group. They invited Jo to join, which she did.

Jo was made to feel very welcome, and from being a part of this she became more and more interested in Service User Involvement and Leadership. Jo then got a visit from Martin Stanier and Johanna Wilson who were recruiting for the Self-Management Steering Group. Jo applied and joined as a volunteer.

As a volunteer, Jo also visited a service with Liam Cole to carry out an audit. What stood out for Jo was that she felt like her voice was important. Jo found that Together’s actions didn’t feel tokenistic, they felt genuine and authentic.

Through the Self-Management Steering Group Jo worked with Martin, Jess Worner and Jackie Hardy who inspired Jo to learn more about Service User Involvement and Leadership. About a year later a there was an opportunity to join the NSG and Jo was successful in being recruited to this voluntary position. In all the volunteer roles it felt important to provide a collective service user perspective so she spent more time networking and gathering service user views locally and nationally to inform these roles.

3 years ago this job came up due to a contract change. Jo applied for the role and was successful!

A lot of things Jo did as a volunteer helped her to find her confidence and find her voice again. It gave Jo the confidence to apply for the job and to complete an Introduction to Counselling course which Jo loved. This then encouraged Jo to undertake a yearlong counselling skills course. This was the first time Jo had studied graduate level training since university as a teenager.

Role models:

  • Sandra and Maxine the Peer Support Workers who Jo met at the roadshow
  • Jess Worner
  • Angela Newton
  • Anne Beales
  • Jackie Hardy – Jackie is very passionate about co production and so is Jo.
  • Mandy Chainey – she was brilliant. Co-delivered Peer Support training course. Always been supportive, great listener and passionate.
  • Together’s general ethos, doing ‘with’ rather than ‘for’. Jo says that many services do things ‘for’ the service users, which is quite damaging. This risks the service user becoming deskilled and losing confidence in sorting out own problems. For Together staff to come in and make plan together, when same problem came around the next year Jo had the skills to deal with it.

Training that Jo has completed

Service User/Volunteer:

Jo completed the Service User Involvement and Leadership training course, and Peer Support training through Together.

Doing courses as a service user, made Jo realise that she wants to do more studying and that she was interested in Mental Health. Jo’s involvement with Together, as well as completing these courses, gave her the confidence to do an Introduction to Counselling course which she really loved. Jo then went on and did a yearlong counselling skills course, which was the first time she’d studied graduate level training since university as a teenager. She had the confidence to do something she hadn’t done in years.

Since becoming Peer Support Worker.

Jo re-did the Peer Support training and completed the essential training that Together provides. Jo has enjoyed having the learning take place online, it has helped to have information in chunks and have time to reflect and practice in between sessions. Before, it was a lot of travelling to get to classroom and then a lot of information to receive at once.

Jo has also been taking part in Reflective Practice, led by Rhiannon, alongside two of her colleagues for the past year. Jo has found this incredibly helpful as it has given her a chance to reflect on cases and explore them on a deeper level.

Norfolk County Council provided some level 2 courses which also came with a mentor. This was really helpful in giving Jo time to think about future development and receive guidance on this.

Keeping learning up to date:

Hands on experience…Jo is really interested in the Power Threat Meaning framework. They invited an external party to support a client with this area, and normally the manager would join, however due to Jo’s interest in this area she was invited to be present.

Being part of a close team…If Jo or her colleagues are stuck with something they can reach out to each other and get someone elses perspective which really helps

Bitesize learning and at the point of need…Such as You Tube to watch lectures

Final Thoughts

Jo says that she loves her job. And being able to use her lived experience is really important to her. Jo has had mental health issues since she was young and it’s great to use this in a positive way.

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