Thank you for letting us come and talk to you Michele.
You’re welcome, it’s a pleasure to spread the word of the good work that’s done in Leeds.
So what do you do? What’s your job role?
I’m a Chief Officer for care services. I currently look after all day centres, care homes, supported living tenancies in mental health, learning disability services and community support services for adults. I’m also responsible for social work services for people with learning disabilities and also mental health issues as well as the transition service and emergency duty team.
Wow that sounds very busy!
It is challenging but rewarding too.
This week is Leeds Learning Disability Week so we wanted to talk to you, being the Chief Officer for this area. How did you come to work in Adult Social Care and learning disabilities?
I’ve been in Leeds for four years, and previously I worked for Mencap and Barnardos. Without giving my age away I’ve worked in the field of social care for nearly 30 years. I first worked with people with a learning disability at the age of 13 when I was a volunteer for the Manchester and Salford taxi drivers’ annual taxi trip for children with a learning disability to Blackpool. This was my first trip and I’d decided on my future career.
Times are hard for everyone at the minute but there are still lots of amazing things happening. What do you think the main problems are for the council and you personally as a Chief Officer?
I think we’re living in really exciting times with personal budgets and better access to information and services. People expect to live in the community and to not share houses with people if they don’t wish to. Expectations of services are rightly high and people who contact us expect choice and control. However this does bring a challenge in an increasingly difficult financial climate, how far does choice go on tighter budgets and higher demand? We have to continue to be creative and innovative in designing our services and to ensure we make the most of what we have. It’s difficult taking decisions that have an impact on people’s lives and not being able to say YES to all the brilliant ideas the people have.
As I said before it is very difficult times for everyone but there must be things we as a council need to be shouting about?
Definitely, from the amazing council teams and services to the vibrant third sector (voluntary, faith and community organisations), people genuinely have a passion for this work. Also, our co-chair of the Learning Disability Partnership Board has received an award at the Yorkshire Women of the Year event.
Here’s an example of how day to day services can help people – not as glamorous as an award perhaps, but just as fantastic. Recently a new community base at Blackgates for learning disability services has opened. The change in some of the customers has been quite noticeable and everyone seems to have settled in. One of the ladies used to roam around aimlessly at West Ardsley; she would rarely speak, and spend her day looking down on the floor. She now looks up and will make eye contact. She will also speak up for herself and is able to communicate her choices. She enjoys helping others and her confidence has had a real boost. What a great difference a small community base can make to someone’s life. It’s an absolute pleasure to work in this field.
Why do we have Learning Disability Week?
We need to promote and raise awareness of people with learning disabilities. The Leeds Learning Disability Week provides a variety of activities, highlighting the fact that just because you have a learning disability it doesn’t stop your life, you can still take part in day to day activities and have a voice with choice and control.
Thank you Michele for your time.