Veronica Astor has little time to look back on her career as she prepares for the final weeks at Oakfield before her retirement.

Much needs to be done to hand over the Liverpool day service, which specialises in helping people with learning disabilities learn more about healthy eating, sports, IT, and much more. This is a service she set up back in 1996, and has managed ever since. We catch her one morning to ask her how she got started, how social care has changed, and what she’s most proud of in her career.

 
Veronica Astor working at Oakfield day serviceGetting started

“When I leave on the 28th October, it’ll actually be exactly 20 years,” says Veronica, reminiscing on the past. “It was a tremendous challenge, and I just remember being very excited about it.” Liverpool City Council were looking to open a day service with an experienced organisation, and United Response won the contract. That was how everything got started.

 

“It was my job to recruit staff. A couple of rooms had to be furnished, we didn’t have any pencils, pens or paper, so it was literally starting everything from scratch.” Veronica and her team also had to encourage people to come and start using the service. Within about a year, they had every place filled.

 

How Veronica got into social care

When asked how she got into social care, Veronica tells us about her unconventional route. “I came into social care by accident. I had an art degree and an art training qualification, and somebody asked me if I would do some work with some people with learning disabilities.” It didn’t take her long to realise how much she enjoyed the job. “I just sort of got drawn in from there.”

 

Career highlights

She stresses the importance United Response placed on being different, thinking of new ways to provide good social care to people with learning disabilities. “We were looking to do important things that people wanted to do – whether that’s photography or science – we would really look at ways that people could do that.” The highlight of her career was seeing the outcomes of these methods. “Seeing people achieve, the satisfaction and the sense of pride that people get when they are learning. They feel better about themselves.”

 

Veronica Astor collecting an awardThe changes of social care

For someone who’s been in social care for 20 years, Veronica’s seen a lot of changes. “When I first started working for United Response, things were just starting to change in regards to people with learning disabilities.” She describes how she felt things were moving forward, with United Response leading the way on some of these new, innovative ideas in social care. “People were going to move into supported living, there were more person-centred plans, more people getting jobs – it was very encouraging.”

 

So what’s changed since then? “Unfortunately, over the last three or four years because of all the funding cuts, I think we’re starting to go backwards a bit. It’s quite worrying.”

 

As part of our Postcards from the Edges re-launch, we’ve been asking people – support workers, people we support, their family and friends – what they would say to those in charge of social care funding. Veronica gave us her view. “I think I’d say: people deserve a life. And in the grand scheme of things, I don’t think it costs an awful lot of money.”

 

The next chapter

As she looks towards the beginning of the next chapter, we ask what she plans to do in her retirement. “I’m going to spend lots of time with my husband and family especially our young grandchildren. I also intend to pick up on my drawing, painting and photography from my art background.” So as Veronica goes back to her artistic roots, Oakfield Day Service looks for some very big boots to fill.

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Veronica's video postcard