This week, we had a chat with Vici Richardson, who is our Community Care and Personalisation Manager.
What led you to Disability North, and how long have you been here?
I guess what really led me to Disability North was my son. He is now 19 but when he was two he was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Up until then I had been a Children’s Services Manager for a local childcare company. When he was diagnosed it totally turned my world upside down and changed my direction in terms of work and outlook. I left the world of childcare and went to work as a fundraiser for a national Duchenne charity and then ended up as their National Campaigns and Advocacy Manager. However, with two young children the travelling became too much and I needed a change to something that would work with my family. I saw this job advertised and it really appealed to me. I loved what Disability North stood for although I knew very little about Direct Payments- I had to do a lot of research in order to put together a power point presentation. It was a huge risk I was taking as it was initially a 12-month contract, but here I am 12 years on. I now know a lot more about Direct Payments and as well as advising others. I also have 10 years lived experience managing a team of Personal Assistants on behalf of my son.
Can you describe an average day?
There is no average day, that’s what I love about the job. Every day brings something different.
But usually I spend the day talking to people, whether that is via email, phone or in person.
A large part of my role is supporting people who have a Direct Payment and employ Personal Assistants, so I may spend a couple of hours supporting someone to put in place a really good advert and job description for example. Then a call may come in from someone who is having some challenges with their support; maybe something isn’t working out with their PA and I am there to advise and talk through the issues.
I also provide Community Care advice; calls or emails that come in range from support with a disability related expenditure form, to someone wanting to challenge a decision that has been made about their support.
Then there are the not so average days which include focus groups with the Health Minister!
Because I manage the Community Care and Personalisation team I also spend time supporting the rest of the team. The best days are Thursdays when we are all in the office and Beth brings in cake!
What is your favourite thing about your job?
I also love seeing the difference what we do makes and I love seeing individuals confidence grow in employing their own support.
Recently we have done a lot of work on Care charges with individuals and have successfully supported people to ensure that their disability related expenditure is taken into account in the charge that they pay. That has been a really positive part of the job.
The best thing is seeing the difference good support can make to someone and when their support is really tailored to what they need to live a good life
What would make your job easier?
More time and more value put on a living a good life rather than just existing. More value placed on the role of a Personal Assistant.
A lot of our frustrations at the moment are with recruitment. If I could magic up more good PAs that would be great – but failing that if the pay and conditions were improved that would certainly help. There seems to have been such a backward step in self-directed support, direct payments and the value of choice and control: that makes the job role harder and more frustrating for my team, but it makes life so much harder for those who draw on social care .
What do you wish people knew about the people you work with?
Sometimes I wish people could see the utter frustration the people I work with have with systems and processes. I wish people could see the effect that system failure has on people and how the things that we often take for granted are just not available to them.
I also wish people could see the difference good support makes in an individuals life.
The people I work with and support are amazing: I have known a lot of them now for a number of years it does feel like a big family sometimes.
Thanks Vici! If you are having any problems with Direct Payments, Personal Assistance or your Community Care, please give us a call on 0191 248 0480 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.