People join Livability’s outstanding staff team for many reasons, but Ivan Etherington must be one of the few for whom a cat played a part in his decision. He explains: ‘I’d come for the interview at Livability Dolphin Court and noticed the cat, Purdy, who was very cosily asleep in the hall.
‘One of the staff said the cat had adopted the service and had become part of the family, and for some reason that really resonated with me – that this service was person-centred and not “clinical”. Staff had decided to keep the cat because the people who live there wanted to.’
Ivan went on to join the team as manager at Livability Dolphin Court, a residential care home for 15 disabled adults in Southend-on-Sea. Ivan has recently won a Princess Royal Livability Award in April, (presented by Livability Vice Patron Lord Shaftesbury), for outstanding staff achievement.
He began his new role by investing time and resources in his team: ‘They had been through a demanding period of change and I wanted to bring them on a journey with me.’ For Ivan, that meant ‘giving people the opportunity to use their judgment and initiative, and letting them know that we don’t have a blame culture’.
Such was the staff response that the service gained an improved CQC rating shortly after. ‘The staff team is the best thing about working here,’ says Ivan. ‘Seeing them go from strength to strength is amazing – all I’ve done is lead them.’
Ivan is modest about his role in what has been achieved at Dolphin Court, but his Regional Manager Jamie McClen who nominated him for an award says he made ‘an immediate impact at Dolphin. Staff told me they feel Ivan believes in them. I feel he’s not only an asset to Livability and the people we serve but to the care sector in general.’
Ivan’s enabling, ‘aim high’ approach has impacted the people who live at Livability Dolphin Court, as staff work together and with them to create opportunities to live life to the full. Staff member Emily Deal, who joined the team on the same day as Ivan, has worked with one resident who has seen a marked improvement in her mobility.
Beating logistical challenges, Emily set up swimming sessions for Vanessa at an accessible pool, which has resulted in Vanessa being able to stand unaided, a major achievement for her, as well as doing many more everyday tasks for herself. ‘I feel proud,’ says Vanessa. ‘The staff give me confidence to try things. Like I couldn’t put my top on by myself, but I tried and I sussed it. As I say, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it!’ Emily feels she has achieved something very worthwhile: ‘Ivan is very, very supportive and pushed me to believe I can do it.’
Another newly-arrived resident has found the confidence to get out into the community most days, initially with staff support, rather than stay at home. This is what it’s all about, Ivan feels: ‘I believe everyone should have similar opportunities in life and everyone deserves respect. No one should be excluded because they’re not the same as everyone else. That’s how I felt when I came into social care almost 20 years ago, and I’ve never lost my passion to make a difference.’
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