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#25stories – support worker to director

TanyaTanya Abbott, director of operations, has been with Brandon since the beginning. Here, she tells us more about her 25 year career with us: from support worker to director.

I got a job as a support worker at Brentry Hospital in 1994 after I followed in my sister’s footsteps. It was an interesting time to join social care and the beginning of Brandon.

At the time, a lot of the long-term institutions were closing, following the government’s change in policy. It was the start of people moving out of hospitals and into communities. I supported a group of ladies to move into one of our residential dwellings where we still support people today. It felt like a time of real change.

Brandon and back

I loved my job from the get-go, enabling people to live an ordinary life – exactly the aim we continue to have today. I left briefly to become a residential social worker with a children’s organisation. Yet I missed the values of Brandon, so I came back. I remember ringing up and asking for a role anywhere, so that I could once again support people in the person-centred way I had become accustomed to.

I came back as a support worker, then became team leader, then a registered manager. While I was a registered manager, I was asked to go to Cornwall to support the transition of people moving from a long-stay hospital into their own home as tenants for the first time. It was also the first time that the people and their families were part of the process of interviewing their care providers. It was exhilarating to be a part of people’s choices – having their voices heard and acted upon.

Empowering people we support

Cornwall got under my skin, so I was really happy to be appointed the quality manager in Cornwall. The quality role connected me with people we support as well as other stakeholders across the organisation. Like all my roles in Brandon I felt passionate in striving to make a difference.

I eventually became head of quality for all of Brandon, and that takes me to where I am today, director of operations, but I have never forgotten my grassroots.

I miss supporting people directly, but I have learned from both positive and negative experiences to always listen to those we support, as well as people closest to them and the staff. I believe in empowering the people we support, as well as our staff, as leaders and enable them to become confident pioneers.

Live life in the way they choose

A lot has changed over the past 25 years, but the thing that has remained the same is that the voice of people we support must always be heard and, as a result, actions taken. Brandon, like all social care providers, is facing the combined challenges of rising demand, escalating costs, changing expectations, and tough economic circumstances. However, this is no excuse to stop learning from the lessons of the past or stop listening to the voices of today.

I love hearing the positive stories and celebrating with the people, as well as being able to wrap an arm around them when things don’t go to plan.

I have seen firsthand, learning disability support transform from institutionalised care to a place where more people are valued and have the chance to live an ordinary life. There has been progress, but there is much more to be done.

To this day, I am still excited and passionate about enabling children, young people, and adults with learning disabilities and autism to live life in the way they choose.

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