IMG_9870-(ZF-0622-44659-1-010)I’m sure you’re aware that it’s National Carers’ Week – I’ve certainly seen lots of fantastic stuff going on in the media to support the campaign.

We wondered what we should do to mark the occasion – and the first thing I thought about was the wonderful contribution made to our training team by my colleague Jen, who just happens to be a carer!  So, (although I know she’s probably going to hate me for doing this!) I thought I would spend a bit of time talking about why she is such an important member of our team.

Well, I suppose the first thing to say about Jen is that she is, first and foremost, a Mum! Her son (we’ll refer to him as ‘C’ for confidentiality) is autistic, and communicates through behaviours, rather than with words – and some of those behaviours can be very difficult, even dangerous at times. ‘C’ is a young man now, and lives in a residential service, but suffice to say, Jen has had a number of struggles over the years to get his voice heard by the professionals supporting him. I won’t go into all the battles she’s had to fight, (that’s Jen’s story, not mine) but she continues to strive for what any mother would want for her son – a life like any other!

Care showcase JenYou might think that supporting ‘C’ and the staff who work with him would be enough to keep her busy, but no – Jen is also a passionate about supporting other families. So, she’s an active member of the Challenging Behaviour Foundation, and is always willing to use her own experiences to offer advice and a listening ear to other families who might be going through similar difficulties.  Jen’s experience with ‘C’ means that she is a firm supporter of Positive Behaviour Support, and therefore also supports and moderates various online PBS forums. And if THAT wasn’t enough, she was also one of the leads in setting up the Surrey Positive Behaviour Support Network – a mammoth task that took a huge amount of organising and energy!

When you look at Jen’s wealth of knowledge and experience, it’s no great surprise that we were so keen to have her work with us at the Smart Enterprise – the surprise was that she had the time and energy to do it! So we were thrilled when she agreed to co-deliver some of our courses. Jen is very open and honest when training, meaning that delegates get to hear about her experiences first hand – the good the bad, and sometimes the ugly! And I really can’t overstate the impact that she has– she’s brilliant at shattering the social care stereotype of ‘awkward family carers’ and enabling delegates to see that carers are just people, with the same strengths and frailties as anyone else! After Jen’s presentations, comments such as “I’m going to rethink my approach to working with families” and “incredibly powerful” are the norm! And, to add to her training skills, Jen is also a superb team member – a wonderful sounding board for ideas, a great support to the rest of the team, and of course, fun to have around!

C&JJen hates to be called ‘inspiring’ – as far as she’s concerned, her life with her son and her battles for his future, are just part of being a mum, and she doesn’t want any praise for doing it. However, in her role as a trainer I know that she has indeed inspired many people – whether they be families, front line support staff, managers, CQC inspectors or colleagues. Her passion to improve the system, by working together with people with disabilities and professionals, shines through everything that she does – and if that doesn’t deserve a mention for National Carers’ Week, then I don’t know what does!

Click here to find out more about National Carers’ Week.