By Neil Raw.

I used to work in heavy manufacturing for over 25 years. I worked in the steelworks, and was a team leader, in charge to 30 men. Despite the great wages, and generous holidays, it was a dirty, unpleasant and often unsafe environment to work in. It was bad not only for my physical health, but mental health too. To my employer, I was just another worker… any differences with management were met with: “You know where the door is”. For me, it was a hugely depressing environment and it nearly finished me off.

A career change was what I needed, so when my mortgage was paid off, and my three kids had grown up, at the age of 51 I applied to become a health care assistant with Care Visions At Home. It’s quite a career change, but being a health care assistant was something I wanted to do for a long time. Growing up, my mum looked after the elderly, and in those days, she would bring those she looked after back to our home. I spent a lot of time sitting down, and talking to them. I knew I needed to make a change to my life that would allow me to work closely with people, and regain a sense of pride in my work.

And 18 months on, what do I feel now? Happiness. I thought I would solely want to work with the elderly in this job, but now 80% of my clients are under the age of 16. I love it. I work 24 hours across the week, and in one day, I could spend time with up to four families. The job requires you to give your all: I treat the children I care for as I do my own. I give them 100% of my attention, my energy and go the extra mile whenever I can.

It’s all about the rapport you build with the kids and their families. Many of the children I look after have physical and learning disabilities, such as autism, and it is my role to take them out, engage them, and encourage them to do and achieve whatever they want to. Be it going for a walk with them in the forest, playing football, encouraging them to eat a healthy meal or maybe go for a swim. You need to be a particular type of person to do this job well, I suppose, and I find it comes very naturally to me. I’m a full-on person, and want these kids to live and love life the way I do. When their parents see the passion you have for their child, like when I send them pictures of what we get up to on Whatsapp, they seem to really appreciate this. It’s the small things… I’m now in demand among the parents, it’s great to feel so valued.

I’ve been shocked by TV documentaries broadcast in recent months that paint the care industry to be close to a large-scale crisis. Care givers are always in demand, how can there be a crisis? I think it is because there are so many care companies out there who make all sorts of promises, and care workers, unless they feel a loyalty to their employer, jump ship if their demands aren’t met. If they don’t get the pay rise they want in the morning, they can walk out and find another job in the afternoon. In this respect, I feel well supported at CVAH. I have a case worker who I can call anytime if there is any element of my work that bothers me, and I feel listened to. I guess this is just such a contrast to the profession I was in before which offered no such support.

I no longer feel I am just a number. I don’t feel I work with people who have a hidden agenda. This is an honest job, and I know I make a difference to those I support. I am respected for the work I do. What more could you possibly want?