This week, we are chatting to Keith, who is our Service Team Manager

What led you to Disability North, and how long have you been here?

I have been involved in advice work for over 20 years. This started with working as a volunteer for Citizens Advice, which led me to completing a degree in Social Policy. Following my degree I took up full time employment in advice work, managing a team of welfare benefit advisors to support people who qualified for legal aid. I then worked as Operations Manager for Citizens Advice in Morpeth, which involved managing staff and volunteers to support people with a variety of issues including housing, debt, welfare benefits and consumer problems. This work was very rewarding and also helped to expand my knowledge of different areas of advice work. It also made me realise that I missed the day-to-day involvement of dealing with client cases and the specialist welfare benefits work I had previously been involved in. This led me to Disability North, and the opportunity to work closely with service users and the dedicated staff members I manage in the Service Team.

I have worked at Disability North for 8 years. 

Can you describe an average day?

Each day can vary and this is one of the things I really enjoy about the job. Most days I will spend part of my time with booked appointments. This can involve helping people with disability benefit applications, providing representation at welfare benefit tribunals or conducting training sessions. I also try to keep part of my day free to deal with new calls and spend time with the Service Team to discuss ongoing cases. I will often get involved in taking initial information from new service users and making sure they get help from the appropriate services. My team specialises in support for welfare benefits and disability equipment, but can also assist with information on disability grants and online applications for a Blue Badge. We also try to find support from external organisations for areas we do not specialise in, for example housing problems or questions about employment law.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I know it is a bit of a cliché, but I genuinely enjoy working in a job where I feel that I can make a real positive difference to the lives of other people. It is a privilege to work for an organisation that has like-minded staff all working together to help and support disabled people in the north east. It is also very rewarding spending time with our service users and helping them to navigate the many challenges of dealing with the benefit system or getting equipment to assist with their daily needs. 

What would make your job easier?

There is a huge demand for help and support for disability benefits advice, but a lack of available funding has made providing advice very challenging. Unfortunately, this situation has only got worse in the years that I have been doing welfare benefits work. Legal aid is no longer available for almost all areas of the welfare benefits and it is very difficult to get any funding to cover service costs. If there was more funding available we would be in a position to assist more people, and this would help them to remain more independent and reduce the reliance on statutory services such as the NHS and social services.

What do you wish people knew about the people you work with?

I think many people would benefit from a better appreciation and understanding of the many barriers and challenges having a disability can bring. These challenges can be employment opportunities, access to equipment and resources, difficulty navigating poorly designed building and the additional financial costs of living with a disability. Also, to understand how resilient and resourceful disabled people can be in dealing with these challenges and,  where possible,  to allow and encourage them to play an active role in any solutions.

Thanks to Keith for responding to our questions! If you need any support from us, please call 0191 284 0480

Take part in our Personal Assistant Training with Angie, our Personalisation Trainer

We are very excited to announce our new training programme with Angie Stewart, our Personalisation Trainer. The training is user led and isn’t corporate style training! It has been developed by direct payment employers. We will also be covering the background of personalisation, choice and control for those who draw on social care. Angie answered some questions for us to tell you more:

Can you tell us about your background at Disability North?

I have recently moved to the role of Personalisation Trainer at Disability North, from my previous role of Personalisation Advisor. I worked with many disabled people, who employ their own Personal Assistants to support them. I have had Personal Assistants for the last 25 years, who have supported me at work, in my home and when out partying the night away. There are more and more disabled people wanting to employ their own Personal Assistants, so we want to promote what a fantastic, highly valued job role this is.

Do you need any qualifications to take part?

No qualifications or experience needed

Will the participant receive any record of their training?

Yes, they will receive a certificate of attendance and lots of vocational knowledge to support getting a job and following a career as a Personal Assistant.

What do you cover in the course? 

We look at what Direct Payments are, their history and why disabled people campaigned to be able to employ their own Personal Assistants. We will talk about equality and diversity, confidentiality, health and safety. We will look at why this is a very unique relationship and why good communication is essential. We offer practical steps people can take to work out the sort of person they would like to be a Personal Assistant for and how they can show their personality, values and skills to get a PA job that is perfect for them.  

Who can take part?

Absolutely anyone, who wants to find out more about working as a Personal Assistant with disabled people.

Training will take place on the following dates:

  • Tuesday 3rd May Part 1: 10am – 1pm at Disability North
  • Tuesday 10th May Part 2 : 10am – 1pm at Disability North
  • Wednesday 4th May Full day session: 9.30am – 4.30pm at Disability North

To take part, please sign-up via Eventbrite by clicking here. There is no charge for this training.

If you have any questions, you can email or call us on the main number.

We’re looking forward to seeing you!