'It's the best job in the world!'
Here’s the first blog in our career series. Stuart Robbins, who is currently acting as head of quality and safety, talks to us about his career at Brandon, his roots as a support worker, and why he loves his new role.
What do you do at Brandon?
Last November, I began my current role as acting head of quality and safety. My job is to have an overview of compliance, quality, and safety across Brandon. It’s varied as I help teams feel confident about inspections, keep managers up to date with new laws, and visit services to meet teams and enable them to provide the best possible support.
What did you do before your current role?
I began working as a support worker 25 years ago. It gave me my happiest memories, taking people for coffee or taking someone I supported to see their grandad. That trip is probably my proudest moment. His grandad was ill and I drove him to the Lake District and back, in one day. He was non-verbal, but I could see he knew the person on the bed, he knew he was someone to him, the journey was worth it just for the few seconds of eye contact they had, where they really connected.
A few years later, I became a home manager, which is now called team leader. I also set up a new service in Keynsham, which is still up and running today.
From there I became locality manager in 2009. I feel really lucky because at Brandon, we’re given the time and resources to do it properly. I began with two services in Bristol, then between 2009-2015 I managed lots of different services with different needs and that’s when I developed an interest in the Mental Capacity Act and in Safeguarding.
In 2015 my role developed, I was still locality manager but I was responsible for managing quality and safeguarding. I had a specific focus. It was a really great role. Following that, I became operational development manager, which morphed into area manager, leading me up to my current role.
What do you like most about your job?
The thing I like most is getting out and meeting people, the thing I like least is the meetings! When I get out to meet teams, it feels like I’m achieving something, it means a lot to me, but it also feels like it means a lot to the teams and to the people we support to know that someone will get in the car and come and see them.
I like meeting managers because I really believe in what we do and what we should do, I like being able to share with them and learn from them too. I like trying to make sure it’s the best service, that things are done properly.
I think quality and culture go together, if people feel supported the care is better, the quality is better. I like going into teams and finding what we like and supporting people with things that can improve. It’s easy to say something is wrong but it’s hard to put things right, that’s what I like helping with.
I think we’re really fortunate here. We have the luxury of time to get to know people, not like in other healthcare services. It’s the best job in the world I think.
When you became a support worker you wanted to help people we support, how do you do that in your role now?
There’s two parts to my job now. Going out and about to help teams but also helping people we support by spotting things they want changing. I’ve been with Brandon a long time so I have the pleasure of knowing a lot of people and having the trust of people we support and staff. People we support just want to live life and make decisions for themselves. We try to give people choices all the time. Sometimes things don’t go as planned but we can fix them and learn from them, it’s about teaching people to take positive risks.
I want to continue to make myself known to the areas, let the team know I am here as a resource, a second opinion. I want to maintain and push up our CQC ratings by giving teams advice and support around what CQC need to see and I would also like to get a better overview of quality and safeguarding across our organisation.
If I only do one thing, I’d like it to be getting people to understand that myself and the team are here to help, like Tesco say, we want to help and support you. We’ll help, we’ll deal with problems fairly and with compassion. Sometimes I must be honest with people and have a really honest conversation, and that can be hard for everyone. The day that stops hurting, is the day I walk away.
What would you say to someone just starting as a support worker, or thinking about becoming one?
You’ll never laugh so much as in this job, you’ll laugh with the people you support, they’ll give you the best memories. It’s the best job. I want to go back to it one day.
I’d tell them about the past too, so they can feel proud to be a part of something that’s improved so much. People often say it’s only 60 years since segregation or 100 years since women got the vote, but it’s only 40 years ago people were kept in large institutions. Now we have the Mental Capacity Act, we have people in their own homes, it’s something to be proud of. Of course, we’re always going to keep pushing for improvements but it’s important to see where we’ve come from too.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I’m really proud to have worked at Brandon for 25 years, it’s a great organisation with a great set of values. If someone asked me what Brandon Trust was, I’d tell them Brandon is people we support, staff on the frontline, it’s all of us, it’s people.