From support worker to service manager
Steph Densley, Service Manager at Birnbeck and Quantock Care Homes, tells us about her career in the social care sector.
I’ve worked in the health and social care sector since I was 14 years old. My journey began as a weekend cleaner in a nursing home for the elderly, where my mum worked. After that, I worked in the local hospital as a housekeeping assistant when I was at college. It was here that I started to build up a rapport with patients in the hospital. I would chat to them while cleaning or bringing their meals, which made me think more about my career options.
Although initially, I thought I could never do care work. I always thought I could barely look after myself, let alone someone else! But my sister was working at a local nursing home and encouraged me to apply. So, at 18 years old, I moved into my first support worker job at The Copse, a nursing home for adults with learning disabilities. It was the best decision I ever made.
Working my way up
It was great fun working at The Copse. Some great characters lived there. I was supporting people in the loudest flat - I can’t possibly think why! We even had a ball pool in the flat, and we could use a hoist to help residents in and out of it. They would have a brilliant time, and balls would end up all over the communal room!
After The Copse, I moved into home care, working mainly with older people. But I realised this type of role wasn’t really for me. Eventually, I ended up with Leonard Cheshire. Birnbeck House was recommended to me by a family friend. And it just so happened a young man with learning disabilities who I had been supporting at home had moved in there. Even more reason for me to apply!
In the summer of 2010, I began there as a support worker. I couldn’t wait to start and wanted to help improve the service and the lives of the people we support. And as fate would have it, the following year, four of the people I had been supporting at The Copse in my first support worker role ended up moving to Birnbeck. It was brilliant to support them again, and great that they would have a friendly face waiting for them. I loved helping out with activities, delivering personal care and forging positive relationships with the people that lived there.
And I’m living proof that there are real opportunities to progress within the social care sector. I left school with no qualifications, and here I am now, managing a number of services with a qualification in leadership and management.
At Birnbeck, I became a senior support worker soon after I started. Then a few years later, a Team Leader position came up. The role would mean I would work across both Birnbeck and Quantock and be the registered manager with the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It was a great opportunity! I was lucky enough to be offered the job and began my management journey.
I had a great manager, Sarah, who had focused on my professional development since I first began working at Birnbeck. She was a great teacher to me and was passionate about delivering quality social care.
Eventually, Sarah moved up in her own role, and I ended up as Service Manager for Birnbeck and Quantock. It was scary to move into that role at first – although it was an exciting time, it felt like a big step up. And while it wasn’t always smooth sailing, I had a great team around me to support me. Not to mention the 19 wonderful people we support across the two services. And now, I’m going to manage Bennett Court, a new independent living service where I’ll be welcoming 12 new people.
Making a difference
The best part of working in social care is seeing the people we support happy and enjoying life. Being part of the reason someone smiles really does mean so much. And having good relationships with your colleagues is a bonus too! Throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed helping people achieve their personal goals and supporting them with activities.
Everybody has the right to choose how they receive their care, no matter their disability. And we work hard to empower people with their choices. Being independent is an important skill to build on, and we continuously work to find creative ways to help people be as independent as they want to be. It’s really rewarding seeing people develop these skills and feeling empowered in their day to day lives.
Why work in care?
Don’t get me wrong, working in care doesn’t go without its challenges. Covid was, as you can imagine, a really difficult time. Especially having to limit when people could go out and about because of the restrictions. Currently, we also really need more staff working in the sector.
Staff that want to get into the sector for the right reason. It’s not a job you do for money. It is a job you do because you want to make a difference. It’s the perfect job for someone who likes variety, isn’t afraid of a challenge and wants to be part of a close-knit team committed to improving the lives of the people we support.
And I’m living proof that there are real opportunities to progress within the social care sector. I left school with no qualifications, and here I am now, managing a number of services with a qualification in leadership and management. The support and encouragement you get from colleagues in the sector is second to none. And I’ve seen many support workers moving up within the sector and building confidence in their roles.
Work with us
In fact, we’re looking for new team members at the new service I’m managing! It’s a brand new service with great new opportunities. People who work with us will have a real chance to help shape the service and make it successful.