We have a chat with Steve Cartlich, Caretaker at Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme, finalist for Ancillary Worker of the Year at the West Midlands regional finals of the 2023 Great British Care Awards.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
It’s my job to fix and install things around the village – whatever needs doing. Whether it's putting up a picture on the wall in a customer’s room or mending a loose handrail in a corridor, I’m there.
Everywhere I go, I hear, ‘Steve! Steve! Steve!’ coming at me from all directions, usually followed by a request and always with a smiling face. I guess I’m the ‘go-to guy’ for everything.
What are the highlights of your job?
I love my job, though I also enjoy getting stuck in with other activities that you might say wouldn’t normally be part of the caretaker’s duties. For example, you’ll often find me driving the minibus when the experience team take customers on trips out, and at the weekends, I volunteer in the village gardens.
A couple of years ago, a few colleagues and I travelled to Wales to climb Snowdon in the name of raising funds for an interactive projector for customers. And, if you’ve been to our Christmas Fair and paid Santa a visit, let’s just say I have an influence on who is on the naughty and nice lists.
Are there any challenges (other than scaling mountains!)?
Working in care is completely different to what I’ve been used to. After leaving school (a few years ago, now!) I was in the Royal Navy, followed by a career in construction.
Whereas the contrast with what I’m doing now is huge, I enjoy being part of a different environment, whilst being able to use my skills and learn news ones, such as putting the dementia training into practice. I’ve worked here for five years now and it’s still as great as day one.
We’ve heard you’ve been involved with work experience students. Tell us more.
The village supports young people with additional learning needs from Blackfriars Academy and Newfriars College. I save up small jobs they can assist with and when they visit, I teach them how to do what’s required.
For example, basic DIY, things like putting picture frames up. It’s great passing skills on, as most of them have never used tools before, so they learn something new. I really look forward to it each week.
And finally, what do you get up to in your spare time?
I enjoy a bit of peace and quiet, so when I can, you’ll find me carp and pike fishing – you can sit with your thoughts for hours on end – pure bliss!
We caught up with Katie Gregson, receptionist at Belong Wigan, who has made many close relationships at her ‘home from home’.
Tell us about your Belong career, so far.
I’ve been with Belong for about eight years. I started in the Belong at Home team, before moving to experience days. When the pandemic struck, activities continued but were limited in the early days and there were opportunities supporting the households and later, the reception. I really enjoyed being part of the front of house team and when a vacancy opened, I applied and got the job. That was two years ago and I’m still enjoying it.
Sounds like you enjoy Belong life, then?
Belong is a wonderful organisation to work for – I love working here. Each day is like visiting family as I’m very close with customers and colleagues. And, my nan, Celia, is an apartment tenant, and my mum is a support worker on one of the households, so we’ve three generations of our family here.
We’ve heard you like going the extra mile and you recently won an ACE colleague recognition award; tell us more!
I just like helping people. Many of our residents used to be tenants and I help out where I can. One customer needed support moving to a household and I volunteered to clear her apartment out for her. I also do online shopping or grocery shopping for tenants; booking appointments, that sort of thing. It’s nice to be a nice person and help others.
Is it true you invited tenants to your big day?
Ant and I were looking forward to getting married and we’d invited tenants to share our wedding with us. Then the pandemic struck, and we had to postpone. Two years ago, we were finally able to do it, though restrictions on guest numbers meant we had to change some plans, so we arranged for the ceremony to be streamed live in The Venue for tenants to watch within their support bubble. We even dropped off Prosecco and cake beforehand, meaning they could join in raising a glass. It was lovely to have them with us.
What do you get up to when you’re not at the village?
I’ve a big family and we love to get away at the weekends – holidays, gigs, festivals, you name it, we’re there! Next, we’re off to a Haven holiday park in Essex, chosen by my daughter. And, I'm looking forward to a honeymoon in Turkey, next year.
Our Exercise Department, Team of the Year finalists at the Belong Champion Awards 2022, share how they assist and enhance our customers’ health and wellbeing.
How would you describe your role?
Our job is to devise personalised exercise programmes and classes using expertise, care, plus a little outside the box thinking to support customers in achieving their fitness goals, in a safe and effective approach. – Jonathan Perrins, Belong Atherton
And how do you work together as a team?
We all have a similar mindset, which is to do the very best for customers. Working on cross-village events brings us closer together, creating a strong team bond which provides the opportunity to share knowledge, best practice and creative ideas. – Max Gay, Belong Crewe
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Helping customers improve their quality of life, for example, becoming more mobile, getting their confidence back following a fall, or just making them laugh and have fun during a group fitness session. – Adrian Hunt-Seviour, Belong Chester
I find it very rewarding just to receive a smile from a resident when visiting a household. – Aaron Wilcock, Belong Warrington
Any achievements you’re particularly proud of?
We have a gentleman who suffered a stroke and lost his movement in one hand and one leg. With gentle perseverance, his leg strength is returning, and now he can fasten his buckle using his hand. It can certainly be emotional to experience these wonderful moments. – Jane Coburn, Belong Newcastle-under-Lyme
A customer moved in with a broken shoulder following a fall at home. She’d lost her confidence to walk, and having worked with her, she’s back to using stairs independently and recently completed an obstacle course I designed to recreate the daily routine she would have at home. – Lee Fletcher, Belong Wigan
Are there any challenges to overcome?
Every customer is different, therefore getting to know them personally, their background, likes and dislikes, and adopting a flexible and adaptable work ethic always helps. – Clare Barby, Belong Morris Feinmann
What one piece of advice would you give to readers?
Come and see your Exercise Specialist for support and advice – we are here for you. And remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day! – Andre Kwiatowski, Belong Macclesfield
Stay hydrated, go for a daily walk, and keep moving! – Belong Exercise Department team
We have a special contribution from Ali Harrison, Non-Executive Director on Belong’s Board, who shares an update in her new role as Belong’s Speaking Up Guardian on the importance of everyone – customers, colleagues and friends of Belong – sharing our ‘We are honest’ value.
Hello everyone. I joined the Belong Board almost eighteen months ago, in September 2021, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a number of you whilst on visits to all of our villages, at Pepper House, and also when attending our board meetings which have been held at Newcastle-under-Lyme, Didsbury, Warrington and Chester.
I wanted to introduce myself as Belong’s ‘Speaking Up Guardian’ – taking over this role from my colleague Kate Baldwin. Kate has recently moved on from our board, having enjoyed six years working with colleagues here.
Honesty is one of Belong’s fundamental values and it’s absolutely vital that everyone in Belong feels confident, comfortable and able to speak openly about any concerns they have, especially if those concerns relate to serious incidents such as abuse or wrongdoing. We recognise that there can be times when things don’t always go to plan and you might feel unfairly treated or are concerned that the best standards of care to support our customers are not being provided.
As an experienced board member across a number of organisations, including the NHS and a large national charity, I understand the importance of being able to speak up freely and so this article is to help remind everyone and anyone who needs to reach out for support, to do so.
Belong’s colleagues will be familiar of the ‘See Something, Say Something’ leaflet and ‘Speaking out at Work’ policy. These form part of a framework which ensures colleagues are provided with regular opportunities to meet with one another and their line managers and raise any concerns.
There are also other avenues to explore to express any concerns they may have, including raising these with the immediate line manager, or a more senior manager when this is not possible. A dedicated email is also available to reach myself and Belong’s Head of People, Maggie Wallace, in the strictest of confidence.
For our customers and their families, Belong continuously takes our lead from your feedback and what we can do better. If your concerns are serious, we implore you to speak up without hesitation, in the knowledge the information you provide will be handled sensitively and any necessary action will be taken as swiftly as is practical.
Together, we have a collective responsibility to uphold the value of honesty and I am grateful for your assistance in ensuring this lives in all aspects of what we do.
We chat with Jacqui Cooper, a Registered General Nurse at Belong Warrington, who used to enjoy visiting the village’s bistro while studying at the nearby college.
Can you tell us about your career to date?
I always wanted to work in care. When I was at school, I got a job working at a nursing home at weekends before going on to study Health and Social Care at A-level at Priestley College, which is across the road from Belong Warrington. During this time, I used to go for breakfast with my friends at the bistro at the village, and I was fortunate to undertake a placement working on one of the households.
After completing my nursing degree at the University of Chester, I worked at Warrington hospital to gain experience in an acute setting, but I always wanted to return to care. I became a Registered General Nurse at Belong Warrington nine months ago.
What are your work responsibilities?
I oversee nursing care, which includes supervising the administration of controlled drugs, attending to any medical issues that require dressings, and end-of-life care. An important part of my role is liaising with family to ensure that people’s choices are respected in all matters relating to this type of care.
What’s your favourite thing about working at Belong?
I fell in love with the set-up, how homely it is, and how welcoming people are when I used to visit the bistro. Nowadays, I enjoy that I get to spend more time with customers and get to know them and their families much better than if I worked in hospital.
What has been the highlight of your experience at work?
Since the villages have been able to welcome visitors again, it’s been heartwarming to see Belong return to how it should be. It’s how I remember it. I generally find it very satisfying to support people to live with dignity at all times, as well as being there for family during difficult periods.
Finally, what do you do to unwind after work?
I have two children, so I don’t have a great deal of spare time. I enjoy long walks with the dog and quality family time. We have a National Trust membership, so we also like to go to places of interest like Dunham Massey.
We chat with Jane Hughes, Lead RGN at Belong Crewe. Jane initially joined the Belong group back in 2008, in the days when it still owned its more traditional CLS care homes, working at one of its locations in Winsford for a number of years before resolving to pursue a nursing degree. She returned to Belong as a nurse in 2019, and describes how she has been supported to grow her career and the fulfilment earned from nursing in a care environment.
Tell us about your career background?
When I joined CLS as a care assistant, I’d just completed a degree in Psychology and Criminology and didn’t know where I wanted my career to go. Luckily, I fell in love with care straight away and so I stayed and worked toward becoming a senior care assistant then, later, care team leader.
In 2015, I applied to do a degree in nursing. It felt like a natural progression from caring, and I was keen to learn more. I remained working part-time, and on one of my placements I popped into Belong Warrington to shadow a nurse there. When I qualified, I worked in hospitals for 18 months before returning to care.
What does your job involve?
I came back into care because I missed the closeness and the relationships I was able to build with customers. The hospital was great, but you’re helping people get better and then you never see them again. When looking after those in social care environments, you work with people to support their physical health needs, as well as their social and psychological wellbeing, on a longer-term basis and so you develop relationships with them. That’s what I enjoy the most.
Day-to-day, I lead my nurse team, coaching and training them so they can develop their own careers. There is also quite a bit of networking with GPs and nurse practitioners, so there’s lots of opportunity to learn new skills as well.
What do you like best about your job?
I love the village set-up of Belong and I wouldn’t have worked anywhere else. It feels like a ‘home from home’, a real community.
My job, and nursing, in particular, has given me the opportunity to progress. My current role gives me the autonomy to influence and implement my own ideas, such as different ways of working – and I really appreciate that.
What would you say to someone looking at nursing as a career?
It's incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. To be able to work with and help people thrive independently, in a compassionate setting is a lovely way to spend your career. Anyone thinking of a nursing career or a job in care should definitely give it a try. Leave all those preconceptions behind – what you’ll find is a completely different world to one you’d imagine.