Claire has worked in care for 25 years, starting as a volunteer and working her way up to chief executive at Freeways, which supports adults with learning disabilities.
I’d not really thought about working in care and one of my friends who worked for Freeways was looking for volunteers persuaded me. I was between jobs and thought it would look good on my CV.
Before working at Freeways I worked in pubs and the leisure industry, in welfare rights and in environmental health specialising in chemical analysis so it was a bit of a change!
I liked the idea of working for a charity as it aligned with my values and a desire to have a positive social impact. I soon became a paid support worker and took every opportunity for formal and informal learning, meeting some amazing people along the way who pushed me to apply for positions as they arose.
I was promoted to team leader, then assistant manager, then manager and with each move gaining more knowledge and experience. I became a senior manager in 2005 and CEO in 2013.
I’m now responsible for setting the strategic direction of the charity, working with the trustees to ensure Freeways remains compliant with legislation, provides a quality service, and remains viable as a business.
I could not be prouder when I see one of our employees or volunteers have an impact on an individual to turn their life around by the smallest gesture, conversation or amount of time.
Someone told me a story recently of how they had been walking through town and someone came up to them. This person saw their ID badge and told them that if a Freeways staff member had not spent time talking to them on a day when they were feeling really low, they would have committed suicide. He really believed a staff member had saved his life. We will not all have this level of impact but every interaction could be the one that makes the difference between a good and a bad day.
Care is a misleading word. A lot of what we do is support, helping people to not need you any more and giving people the confidence to have dreams and to realise them. One of the best things is seeing someone do something they did not think possible and seeing them smile from their sense of achievement.