John Field - Agency Care Manager and Experienced Support Worker
We talk to John Field, an experienced care manager and long standing agency worker. He explains how agency working can suit your lifestyle and offer you a wider range of job opportunities, and also how to start off your career in the social care sector.
20th December 2011
Can you talk us through your most recent role as Care Manager, and what the main responsibilities of your job were?
The job is primarily to review existing Kent County Council care packages - mainly with elderly clients – but not exclusively. Also I made recommendations to the care providers if standards of care were not met, and identified risks and dangers when providing care. I worked autonomously and had full editorial responsibility of reviews submitted, and recommendation made
You’ve worked for several years in the social care sector, but can you tell us where it all began and why you decided to become a Care Support Worker?
My mother is a nurse so I had some introduction to the care sector. I wanted to be a mental health nurse, but was unable to do my training (30 years ago), so stayed for 3 years as a nursing assistant and loved it. In 1991 I saw a community care role and stayed there for 11 years – great fun!
Did you find the learning curve quite steep when you first started in that job, and how did you manage it?
In 1991 I worked in a small community care home, and was ‘mothered’ by 3 ‘ex NHS stalwarts, all offering useful advice and the obligatory ‘clip around the ear’ so to speak when needed! It wasn’t a steep learning curve because I was allowed to grow slowly.
What would you say are the key qualities for a person who wants to work as a support worker or care assistant? Would you recommend that NVQ 2 / 3 in Health and Social Care is essential for this type of role?
Life experience and patience is the key for me, I’ve employed several carers who weren’t in the care sector, and had no relevant qualifications. NVQ’s are only knowledge, and if you can't put that knowledge into practice to deliver a good service to your clients and company they aren't much good to you.
Throughout your career you’ve worked in several different care management roles. Can you tell us how the RMA award and your NVQ 5 in Management qualification helped you get where you are today?
The RMA was only a paperwork exercise that was essential for me to do for my role. The NVQ 5 in care management looked at the business as a whole and was much more useful to me in getting jobs and as a learning resource. People tend to look at NVQ5 as a harder qualification to attain, and therefore a better academic test of my knowledge and experience.
You’ve worked in several different establishments in a management function, most recently as Care Manager, and I understand this was all organised through Kent Social Care Professionals. Can you talk us through benefits and disadvantages of relying on an agency for full time work?
Agency work has suited my lifestyle over the last 7 years, and It has helped widen experience of different client groups. The main down side is that there are times when you’re out of work (as now) and you may have to take ‘fill in roles’, until you find a job that you enjoy.
You were instrumental in helping Kent Social Care Professionals (KSCP) set up their domiciliary care division. Can you talk us through that process and how your experience and qualifications helped you in that?
There was no direct experience in care management within KSCP, so I had a free hand to develop the policies procedures and practices. This left me free to develop my own ethos, and style. I had developed good relationships within the agency prior to startup, so they knew what they were getting from me. Experience appeared to be the key to me getting the job.
In your work setting up the domiciliary care service with KSCP you created and implemented mandatory training for all domiciliary care staff. Can you tell us about the standards required and content covered in that training?
The standards are all set out by the care quality commission, and are mostly prescriptive. Where there were areas for personalization I tried to inflect humour into my training packages, and offered an ‘open door’ policy with disciplinary matters and mentoring.
What would your advice be to anyone starting out as a Care Assistant or Domiciliary Carer who wants to pursue their career in social care up to the level of Care Manager?
I would ask people to understand that people who own or run care homes are always the most empathetic or caring of individuals (that’s what they employ you for!), so don’t get downhearted if others have a different agendas.
But most of all enjoy the journey, and you’ll find that the rewards will come from the clients you’ve supported and protected – money, qualifications and gravitas will be the inevitable by-product of time spent enjoying what you do.