"This role is a breath of fresh air" - working for KeyRing during a pandemic
Diana has been a Community Enabler in South London for the last six months. She tells us what it's been like so far.
I have been working for KeyRing for nearly six months. I wanted to say firstly how grateful I am. Starting a new job in a new sector during a pandemic might have been a disaster, but I felt so supported it was a bizarrely positive experience. Right at the beginning of lockdown my husband was very ill with a suspected case of Covid-19 and I had to juggle caring for him and our five-year-old son. I felt worried about letting everyone down and guilty for having so many care responsibilities at home that distracted from my role at work but I was reassured by the kind, compassionate responses from Richard and Matthew and Sue. I want to say thank you for that - not all employers would have been so understanding and I am grateful for what I can only assume is part of the person-centred ethos of KeyRing. It makes me feel valued and whatever the opposite of de-humanised is. Humanised?
On that note, I have come straight from an institution and this role is a breath of fresh air. For the last ten years I have rigidly delivered ‘support’ to neurodiverse young people to fit into an academic system that was not designed to accommodate them. It is very difficult for people with learning difficulties to access normal curriculum and it was soul-destroying after a while to try and get them to fit into The Institution of exams and classes and term-times and reports and grades. KeyRing’s model of person-centred support is a pleasure and a privilege and a relief after all that.
I love being able to turn up to someone’s flat and ask ‘what can I do for you today?’ and adapting and fitting around the Members' needs rather than ‘supporting’ them to fit their needs into an institutional agenda. In a political climate where diversity and inclusion is coming to the attention of the general public, it is exciting to be on the frontlines, delivering a service that is genuinely person-centred and reflects the extraordinary diversity of human flourishing.
I love that when Members are allowed to call the shots and are given genuine choices they often choose audaciously different ways of living. These lives may not be everyone’s idea of the good life, but they are, no doubt, what the Member wants and I feel lucky to have a small part in creating the parameters of that very individual life, of being of service to the Member.
One Member meets me for a cup of tea and some trainspotting every week while I make appointments for her and another Member uses me for very banal admin and wants to take an hour and a half each visit to go through all the details at his own pace, in his own time, in very much his own syntax. I love that the role is flexible enough to allow for a very authentic person-centred delivery of a service. Some Members need two hours here and there, others need two half hour visits every week, still others want phone calls and it is gorgeous to be able to respond to the need rather than impose a structure.
Lastly I am very grateful for Richard’s (my Manager's) support. I feel like I have called him fairly often to discuss the intricacies of cases I am grappling with and his thinking has of course helped me learn and develop professionally but also his thinking means that I’m often able to deliver an outcome that wouldn’t have been possible if I had muddled along by myself. There were so many crazy, unprecedented scenarios during lockdown and I always felt like I could ring Richard and talk through stuff that was niggling or that I wasn’t sure how to approach and I felt confident he would help me reflect. I don’t think I would have delivered a service during a pandemic I would have been proud of without his support. I know Matthew has been ill for a few weeks and is still recovering but I am also grateful for his advice and input as well. He painstakingly walked me through risk assessments and support plans. And the training by Frank for outcome stars and file notes and the induction training was inspiring, if such a thing can be said about file notes and support plans!
I have never worked for a company that values ‘strengths-based’ models of disability before and I love that the ethos permeates not only the service that is delivered to Members but runs through the whole of KeyRing. People are thanked and valued and complimented for what they CAN do and DO and I feel really lucky to work here, it is completely gorgeous to be so value-aligned. I feel like I am learning so much and there is so much more to discover.
KeyRing really is life-changing and not just for Members.