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My job explained: Charity scheme manager

Kathryn Yates describes the challenges and rewards of setting up a charity scheme helping people with learning disabilities. Read on to find out more.

Could you tell us a bit about your job?

I work for MacIntyre, a national charity supporting people with learning disabilities. I manage a scheme called Shared Lives. The idea is that a person with a learning disability spends time with a carer and their family, shares their home and becomes a part of their family for the time they are with them. I find and recruit carers, train them up and then match them with people with a learning disability. Once a match has been made and people spend time together, I visit them regularly to check everything is going well and they are both happy.

Why did you choose to go into charity work?

I volunteered on a summer scheme supporting children with learning disabilities at college and loved it! I continued to choose voluntary opportunities working with people with learning disabilities in the UK and abroad throughout university.

Can you talk us through a typical working day?

I usually come into the office for 9.30am, check through emails and spend some time contacting different community groups. We are still developing the scheme so I do lots of work finding out about different groups that may help spread the word about Shared Lives and offer to go and talk to them. This could be churches, social groups, people looking for work, students, people in supermarkets or people who work for the local authority. I usually have a meeting with someone to discuss this or attend an event that a group has organised and talk to the people there. I stop off in local shops, businesses or doctors surgeries on the way to leave leaflets or talk to people about the scheme.

I meet people who want to be carers every week to go through information about what will be expected of them. I really enjoy getting to know a carer and what's important to them. I also meet with people with learning disabilities, their families and social workers to find out what their aspirations are and see if we have any carers who may be a good match.

I work some evenings and weekends and this may be meeting with a carer going through the induction and training after they finish their day job or speaking to a family or community group. Or it could be attending a car boot sale, fun day or church group and talking to the people there.

What qualifications and training do you have?

My first degree was in English and American Literature and I have a MA DipSW in social work. You need to have a qualification to be a social worker but not to work for a social care charity. But I think my degrees definitely helped me to get to my current role. I have worked for MacIntyre for five years and had lots of training and opportunities to enhance my qualifications.

What other skills do you need?

It is important to be good at communicating in lots of different ways. That may be talking to people you don't know to try to interest them in the scheme or maybe someone has been referred to the scheme who does not use words to communicate. You need to care about what you are doing and be confident; sometimes you have to make difficult judgement calls. It helps to have an interest in people and be able to pick up on what they have to offer even if they are not always able to articulate it themselves.

What are the best bits about your job?

I get to meet really amazing people. Also, I really rate the charity I work for and it feels good to be part of what they do.

What are the most challenging bits of your job?

As I am still setting the scheme up, I am working on my own a lot of the time and it can be a bit lonely. Also, even though I speak in front of groups of people every week, I still get a bit nervous before a presentation!

Was it hard to get your first job?

Not really, because I had lots of voluntary experience and the first paid job I applied for was as a support worker. I think starting in this frontline role after finishing my first degree was an important learning experience that has helped me move onto different roles and also to doing my MA.

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Invest some time in volunteering to make sure it's right for you, to make contacts and get a good idea of what area you want to work in. 

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