Linda Gray on Why Social Care is a Great VocationCaroline Laurenson
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
I recently joined the Inspire PTL team as a Non-Executive Director. I’m still finding my feet in this new role; learning about the organisation and about the challenges that are being faced, particularly at the moment within the sector. I am excited to be able to support the work that Inspire does and very grateful for the opportunity to be part of the team. In this blog instalment we interview Linda Gray to find out more about Inspire and her role as CEO.
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How did you get into working in social care?
I worked in the Oil and gas Sector for 16 years with three entrepreneurial directors who did considerable merger and acquisitions in a very commercial role as Financial Controller and a second hand to the owners. There came a point I could exit from the business when they did a final business transaction, and I felt that whilst I had gained a wealth of knowledge and experience from my mentor Gordon McLellan on all business areas I felt that something was missing for me in my role. I was given a fantastic opportunity by Martin Crewe of Barnardo’s to join their organisation as a Business Finance Manager. The trust that he showed in me with no knowledge of the sector is something I will always be immensely grateful for. Having spent 6 years at Barnardo’s learning a lot and making a difference to the service area I covered from Inverness to Fife an opportunity came up at Inspire as Head of Finance and IT. This role was a build-on from all my technical skills in oil and gas to my experience built up in Barnardo’s. This was the job for me. Over the years I became Director of Corporate services and then was very humbled to be given the opportunity to become the CEO in November 2017.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
It has to be the people – the people we support and the staff. I am in awe of the front-line support staff and the work that they do, and I always tell them this when I am lucky enough to get out on a visit. I feel that I make a difference from the side in ensuring that our organisation provides the best quality of support to individuals with learning disabilities that we can. The people we support are incredible – they make the best of every minute of every day regardless of the challenges that they face.
Relationships is a key part of my job I have really enjoyed building up positive relationships with all our stakeholders so that Inspire is known in the sector for what we do.
I love being able to go to services and join events and meet people face to face and see what a difference we make to their lives. Covid has challenged me personally considerably with the inability to get out to meet the people we support and staff and feel the passion that is in our organisation. I hope this will soon change as we transition through lockdown.
Tell us more about Inspire PTL, the people that you support and your team
Inspire is a learning disability charity that operates throughout the North East of Scotland. It provides support to approx. 340 people with learning disabilities and additional support needs through a range of services. We have approximately 570 staff – primarily operational front-line staff and approx. 35 non-operational staff. We also have a core of volunteers and befrienders that support the organisation.
When I talk about my team I talk about the wider organisation as in my eyes we are all one team. I am supported by a leadership team with cross experience of the skills you would expect in a large charity. Our front-line operational staff are amazing – their commitment and dedication to the people we support is nothing other than fantastic. We knew this before but during this pandemic it has become even more apparent. We have a great business support function that provides the corporate support to the organisation to ensure that at every step of the way we are compliant. In addition, we have a great development team – this team is responsible for ensuring that we differentiate ourselves by providing more than just support – we add value to individuals lives through social inclusion, activities, events, and befriending. This is something that I am immensely proud of as we know the difference it makes to individuals.
In addition, I am supported by a Board of Trustees who are all volunteers and give up their time to support the charity. They are all very passionate about the cause of Inspire and like to get involved with the people supported. Again, Covid has challenged this.
Do you have a favourite book, author, blogger or podcast?
I must say I am not a great reader, but I have started listening to audio books more and more – I dip in and out of books and unless something takes my fancy at page 1 then it is not for me. (impatient). I listen to a lot of podcasts and lately they have all been around wellbeing.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I will refer to non-Covid times as actually right now I do wonder what I do outside of work. My family are my world. I have a husband, daughter, and her partner and a 5-year-old grandson and a huge amount of my time is spent with them. Holidays are something else which are important to me – seeing different parts of the world, spa breaks, meals out.
I also like a relaxation session at the local health spa. Oh, and I am a bit of a social media fan.
This year has certainly reminded me of what is important and some of things that were priorities before are certainly not so much now.
What does healthy ageing mean to you?
Independence – Independence is everything as we all get older and ensuring that we plan. Ensuring positive lifestyle with good relationships with friends and families.
What are your top tips for maintaining wellbeing?
My colleagues reading this may well challenge this, but I would say…… 😊
Ensuring that you can segregate and balance work and home life – Working at home this past year has made this even more difficult.
Downtime – take holidays, time off, do something different, relaxing. Proper meals and good sleep. Speak up if you are struggling.
What advice do you have for people interested in moving into working in social care?
My strong advice would be – If you are just looking for a job to tide you over then social care is not for you. Social Care is a vocation and if you want to make a difference to someone’s life in a positive way, have the right values – then do not hesitate to investigate it. Think about what area of work you want to get into – there are so many different types of opportunities with potential and a wide spectrum of roles.
Going into work at the start of a day or shift knowing that you will directly impact the people/ team that you are supporting will give you a sense of purpose, value, and fulfilment.
There are a lot of opportunities for training if you have no experience, development, career progression and learning. We have staff that have started in support worker roles and are now senior managers so there is a very good path.
One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is the value that has been attributed to social care in the year and with this has followed a review of adult social care. This looks like the future of social care will be positive and recognised in a way that it has not been for some time.
Inspire are a growing and changing organisation and are looking for staff across services due to changing services and growth. If you have the values and passion to want to make a difference to someone that we support and be part of a great team then we want to hear from you. www.inspireptl.org.uk – join our team. If you like the sound of it but are unsure we will always have someone who would be happy to talk to you to give you the information that you would need to help with your decisions.
Talking to Linda, it is clear that the last year has been challenging, but with the support of the wider Inspire team, the organisation has been able to adapt and maintain continuity of care. While I’ve not yet been able to meet anyone in person or visit any of the services, I have had fun joining in the weekly Makaton choir sessions, disco parties and karaoke on Zoom. These virtual activities are just some examples of how Inspire have adapted to support the wellbeing of the people in their care.
Some key takeaways from our discussion include:
- Care is about empowering, independence, inclusion and relationships.
- The dedication of care workers is incredible, and their skills are rightly now being recognised as integral to how social care is delivered.
- Adult social care is a very rewarding role and provides lots of opportunities.
If you want to keep up-to-date with Linda and the Inspire PTL activities checkout their website and Facebook page. The Facebook page is particularly nice, as it shares information about fundraising activities and also pictures and videos of the people Inspire support.If you liked this post this is part of a series of interviews which you might also want to explore. Please check out our website for more technical advice and our Alexa tutorials on our Youtube channel. You can also subscribe to our mailing list to be notified when we have new posts and support material available.