“It’s a really big part of my life. I’ve never wanted to do anything else”, said Anna Melia, a professional trouble-shooter for the disability charity United Response.
The Yorkshire-based 37-year-old Relief Manager is celebrating 15 years with the charity after working her up through the ranks as a Support Worker, Team Manager and then Area Manager.
She said: “I thought I could make a difference and make things better for the people we support.
“I’m passionate about person-centred thinking and understanding people’s needs and how we can better work for those in our supported-living homes.
“It’s all about finding that lightbulb moment and discovering an idea which can help support specific individuals.”
Her role involves writing support plans for people supported by the charity, offering expert guidance to managers and day-to-day management and oversight of services across Yorkshire and the North East.
“I’m often preaching to staff about why a person-centred approach is at the heart of what we do. I think it’s beneficial for our team to have someone who can advise and support them.
“When I go to work, I feel like I am making a difference for people in the best way possible. I love working for a charity. I couldn’t do a job without some element of social justice.”
United Response supports to around 3,000 adults and young people with autism, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, mental health needs or physical disabilities – including some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society.
They provide bespoke support, from 24-hour care to a few hours a week, at around 400 locations across England and Wales and employ approximately 4,000 staff and are regularly recognised for their innovative, high-quality range of services.
Anna added it’s sometimes the small acts which can have the biggest impact.
She said: “Early in my career, I was supporting someone who moved into shared accommodation for the first time in their life. This person was effectively institutionalised and had been so all their lives. They didn’t speak and had many challenges.
“None of the housemates – all of whom had disabilities – knew each other so I had an idea of getting a take away and watching a film. It sounds simple but it really helped to bring everyone together.
“I remember sitting with this person who sucked up a noodle and gave me a massive smile.
“It sounds like a small act but it made a massive impact to this person’s life. They had made a connection with the people that they live with and staff who support them. People they would get to know for a huge part of their lives. She just looked so happy. It made me want to cry.
“If you ask any support worker, they’ll say that their job makes them feel incredibly privileged. You get to share special moments and you get to see people develop.”
“There are challenges like helping people manage their personal budgets and being in control of the key decisions in their lives but I can’t imagine working for anyone else.
“The organisation has supported me and given me the skills and experience to do a job which is my passion.
“If you want a job where you finish work knowing you have made a huge difference, then this is the role for you.
“It’s about getting to know people and caring about them.”