Cast your mind back – if you can – to October 2000. We’d survived the millennium bug and were fresh in to a new millennium, social media as we know it didn’t exist with Friends Reunited reconnecting classrooms, Big Brother had just hit UK screens for the first time, the Euro currency was not yet in circulation and George W Bush was about to begin his first term as president of the United States. A little closer to home three women were each about to embark on their own journey that would come to define their career.

Susan Chen in Hounslow, Cecily Langfield in Easingwold and Andrea Sinclair down the road in Harrogate were simultaneously yet individually beginning their roles as support workers with United Response. Twenty years later they are all still going strong. To demonstrate just how extraordinary this is, 2017 research showed that the average UK worker would change their employer every five years, and a report from March 2020 highlighted that the care sector’s average staff turnover rate was 30.4% for the previous year.

In honour of this remarkable feat, we caught up with Susan, Cecily and Andrea to reflect on their time with United Response and discover what it is that inspired them to stay such a long time…

I’m sure you have many memories from your time working with United Response, is there one or any in particular that stands out from the rest?

SC: I have many fond memories, but one that stands out is supporting one person to visit her family. When she first started visiting her brother she would not allow her sister in law to go near her. After supporting her for many visits their relationship built up, and after some time they could all sit on the sofa together and cuddle. The quality time spent ended up resulting in a magic moment that words cannot describe.

CL: Going on holiday with the person we support was always fun as you got to see a different side to that person! I remember I worked with a gentleman who totally refused a haircut for 6 months, then one day just pointed at his head. He got up, put on his shoes and coat and walked to the car, I just had to go for it and quickly get ready and go! Another time I went in to Marks and Spencer’s and there was a woman who was trying to get people to change their gas or electric supplier, the lady I was supporting pinched all of her complimentary biscuits!

AS: I have so many wonderful memories working with United Response. Spending time at the horse racing with one of the people I support stands out to be one of my memorable experiences. The joy, excitement and laughter we had when we visited is certainly one to remember, so much so we have returned 4 years in a row since.

What made you take a job in the care sector/ with United Response?

SC: I have always worked in the care sector, going to United Response was an easy choice to make because my first impressions were very positive!

CL: I was working in an elderly psychiatric unit and just fancied something a bit different and closer to home.

AS: I started working with UR after joining an agency, it gave me a really valuable insight into a different way of supporting people with learning disabilities in everyday life. It didn’t take me long to accept a permanent position with UR when offered to me!

Did you imagine that you would work with one organization for such a long time?

SC: Not at all, the fact I am really passionate about my work meant that time flew by quickly.

CL: No! It just happened

Cecily Langfield

Why have you stayed so long, what is it that you enjoy so much about the job or your favourite part?

SC: At the heart of the job is caring for vulnerable adults, which is why I enjoy it so much. At the same time, making a difference to people’s lives really motivates me.

CL: To be honest I never thought I would stay this long. I think it is the variety of the job and the fact that each day is always different. Something new always happens and that I enjoy. United Response always provides good training as well and I get great support from my line manager.

AS: I get great job satisfaction working and supporting people to help them lead the most independent life possible. Helping their wishes and dreams come true is invaluable! On top of that I always feel supported and really valued as a team member by United Response.

How has the care sector changed over the last 20 years in your opinion, and how has United Response changed in that time?

SC: The care sector has changed a lot and thankfully become more diverse in the service users that are accepted over the last 20 years. United Response has expanded a lot, and it is definitely more known in the wider community now.

CL: It has changed massively. Financially things are a lot tighter than they used to be, but on the other hand the people we support have a lot more control over their lives now. We have to be a lot more creative now with how we support people with the funds and hours we have. It is doable, just needs more careful thought. United Response is a lot more person centred than it used to be, and also produces so many good tools such as the 4+2 documents that enable to us to review things in a simpler and clearer way. UR has also moved more into the community support side too, which is great.

AS: Obviously I have seen lots of changes in my 20 years’ service, but mostly all for the better I think!

Andrea Sinclair

What would you like to see in the future for United Response and the wider care sector?

SC: I would like to see a greater awareness from people who may not know about United Response and what we do people towards people with disabilities.

CL: To make sure we keep working in a person-centred way with whatever financial restrictions there are. Also I hope we take the positives out of the last several months, they have been super difficult but I have worked in a way that I have never done before and actually quite enjoyed the community work, something I’ve never really done before in my 20 years!

AS: Working with family and friends and people in the community. I believe this brings the people I support a sense of purpose – being part of the local community, and the belief that most things are achievable with our help and support.

What would you say to someone who is (or maybe isn’t yet!) considering a career in care?

SC: If you have the compassion to care and want to make a difference then this is definitely the job for you!

CL: Be prepared for new, fun challenges every day and don’t worry if you make a mistake, just be honest! There is a really good chance that you might make some really good lifelong friends like I have! It is a job you can do if you have children – my experience is that managers are supportive in being flexible around this, especially this year!

AS: United Response is certainly a great place to work!