Meet Claire, our amazing Managing Director…
This week we sat down with Claire Rogers, our Managing Director and fearless leader, with the intention of picking her brain on different aspects throughout our business. As always, her answers were honest, direct and her passion is a clear demonstration as to why, alongside Bal, she is the forefront of our company.
Progress Solutions was started by Bal Dhanoa. Bal worked as a Social Worker for Birmingham City Council for many years, specialising in working with families and children with disabilities. Having a disabled brother, Bal has a personal motivation to strive for better placements and outcomes. The contrast in care over the last three decades from the early 80’s to present day is monumental. Disabled children were placed in a highly institutionalised environments and were labelled and segmented from society. They were often not treated with the level of dignity or respect they deserve. For example, it wouldn’t matter to some organisations if the clothes worn by the disabled individual did not fit. The general attitude was they wouldn’t know, so what is the difference?
With her family connection and having three young children herself, combined with getting fed up of poor quality provisions, Bal decided that enough was enough. She bought a home in Aldridge, which became her first children’s home and thus the start of Progress.
Bal’s unshakable belief is it shouldn’t matter if the person is disabled or not. As a whole, the organisation’s mindset is to never compromise on the quality of care. If it not good enough for one’s own child, then it’s not good enough for those in our care.
We want to make ourselves redundant. That may seem absurd for a business, but we do strive to accomplish what most dread; redundancy.
The age old expression of give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime. While this is a cliché, the phrase is precisely what we do at Progress. It is vital that we enable people. The more we can develop and assist the people in our care to achieve for themselves, the less our necessity becomes.
Considering budget reductions and our unwillingness to sacrifice care quality, the only compromise available is diminishing the need for our services. If we can lessen a substantial number of the people that need our help by putting them first and helping them grow, then we can still work to our financial remits without cutting corners.
With or without disabilities, it is rare in this day and age that an individual will stay in the same place forever. It is to be expected that you would grow up through the school system; usually a different one for primary and secondary school. The next step is college, potentially University, moving in with friends or a partner, or buying your first home as you’re starting the journey into adulthood. Across our services, we try and replicate that process the best we can with the children and young people in our care; helping them with their journey through life.
We try and facilitate this method by employing staff to suit our people, not the services that we run. This radical out-of-the-box restructuring to our recruitment process has allowed us the opportunity to be agile and make a remarkable difference.
Year on year, the increase of children becoming looked after is skyrocketing. In the current economic climate, our priority lies within preventative care, to combat the growth of need.
As part of the SEN reforms laid out in the Children and Families’ Bill, the Government placed a statutory duty on Local Authorities to provide a ‘Local Offer’ of preventative and low threshold services for families no longer eligible for the new Education, Health & Care plan. The standards expected were similar to those that we had already embedded in our company long before the official voices declared it to be mandatory.
By taking the concept of early intervention, we are continually looking at points of assistance where we can add value. Whether it be through community-based support, sitting services, clubs and activities, or simply providing services families can access when they need it; giving the parents a break from their efforts towards care.
Although it would be easy to just take those in care on fun day trips and rely on the TV or iPads for entertainment in-between times, we feel the time spent with a child is valuable. Alongside having fun, we ensure we establish learning curves in every task we complete. Even something as inane and straightforward as washing a child’s face – rather than doing it for them, we teach them to be self-sufficient to ensure that they are learning and progressing positively. The seemingly insignificant task results in the development of simple life skills which will, in turn reduce the cost of care further on in life.
A Career in Social Care
I have always been driven by making a difference, when I see a child that has a need for assistance, I want to make their life better and want to help them succeed.
Children that cannot communicate in traditional ways or express how they are feeling, can become frustrated and sometimes angry because of this. It takes a lot of heart and perseverance to work in social care and deal with those outbursts. You cannot do so unless you are 100% committed.
You run the risk of further damage a child’s character and personality if you are only in the job for yourself and don’t keep their best interests in mind. That being said, it is not all doom and gloom. Going into social care is like re-living the weekend every day. Quality time with a child, teaching them new things, taking them for fun days out and creating lots of opportunities to learn and grow, as well as encouraging them to pursue the hobbies they love. It is a pleasure to organise great stuff for kids, based on the things they love and to give them opportunities to challenge themselves and try something new. Seeing the pure joy on their faces is what makes it worthwhile.
Every single day is different. Providing you put the dedication, hard work and focus in, support work is a brilliant opportunity to get your time investment back tenfold in job satisfaction. Needing to motivate yourself is the challenging part of the role. You must put the child first and at the forefront of your decisions. As well as the child, you need to take on the importance of supporting families. This includes taking on their views, especially when they conflict with yours. Imagine being a parent and having to admit ‘I cannot look after my own child alone.’ It isn’t something any parent wants to say. It is your responsibility to help them feel better and spin the situation into a positive one.
Care work is not an easy job by any stretch, but done correctly it can unmistakably be the most amazing job in the world.
Internal Progression within Progress
Bal has always prided herself on improving people. This attitude has been driven throughout the organisation, regardless of employee’s position within the company and irrelevant of background, experience or education. If you want to advance your career and professional growth, Progress will certainly support you. We encourage not only the people in our care but also those on the team to be the best that they can be; inspiring them to maximise the opportunities in their lives and to help them take the leap to go for it.
My own journey within Progress started in its second year, when there was an opening for a Senior Support Worker for the second home to open. I was in fact given the Deputy Manager’s position alongside the Manager who was due to start three months after me. I helped set up the home, run the training for the other staff and some other housekeeping duties. Sadly, the Manager didn’t end up starting, so I was promoted. This was back in 2002. I told myself it would be for three years. Fifteen years later, having progressed throughout the company into the Managing Directors role, I feel like I’ve been a part of the difference we have made. I’ve helped shape the business and parallel to that; I am a first-hand testament to Bal’s commitment to shaping her staff.
I’ve been with Progress through a multitude of changes in our industry too. The different spending cuts, many Local Authority restructures and the regulators have been changed three times.
Being able to assist the team here in spotting opportunities has been fantastic. I enjoy keeping an eye on what’s going on in our industry, modifying and adapting the services we offer to match demand. It is always in the back of my mind that we need to think differently and be different. Bal has been a pillar of support throughout that journey, encouraging additional training and development wherever possible. I’ve really felt my voice is valued.