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“I want young people to feel this is their home”

After your first six months at St Christopher’s, once you have had chance to finish your introductory training and settle into the job, you can pick the direction you’d like to take with your career.

Our Academy offers multiple pathways that you can mix and match to get to where you want to be. Tahir* took on the Leadership Passport to become a Team Leader – he explains what he has learnt in his time working in a semi-independent home. (*name has been changed)

Why did you want to work at St Christopher’s?

When I saw the advert, I spoke to my wife about it and she said, “You do like helping people, so why not look into it?” During the interview process I met some young people, and I felt like I could genuinely help them.

Before working here I was at university and worked in a supermarket. I had also volunteered for other charities helping people in need and had volunteered with kids doing after school programmes, helping with homework and doing activities.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Since working here, I’ve realised how much I like helping our young people. You meet people from all different backgrounds and life stories – it’s helped me experience something new and get out of my comfort zone. Like I have supported young people who have different sexualities and gender identities, so I have learnt about the importance of using the right pronouns and things like that. Wanting to learn new things about the young people shows you build a bond and an attachment with them. It makes me feel like I’m doing a good job.

Our young people need support to learn life skills, so I teach them the things they need to know for adulthood, like cooking a simple recipe. They will say “I didn’t know it was this easy!” and I am like “Yes, let’s do it!” The kitchen might be a mess by the time we’re done, but it’s fun and you teach them lots of new things. I like doing fun activities with them.

What support did you receive as a new employee?

I joined as a night worker during the first lockdown. My team was really hands-on with offering support. I was always on shift with a very experienced colleague, who helped me learn. And the day team members showed me how to use the different recording systems properly.

One-to-one support from the manager and deputy in my home was good – they always helped me out and I could go to them with any questions or problems.

Why did you want to start the team leader passport?

I want to progress at St Christopher’s for the long run, so I thought why not? My ambition will outgrow my position eventually so it was time to prepare myself for a step up.

It was also about challenging myself – after a year on the job, I didn’t want to stagnate and get bored. So I asked my manager for more responsibility and they put me on the Leadership Passport to becoming a team leader and added it to my appraisal targets.

A lot of the work I was already doing so by the time I finished the passport, I would definitely be ready for promotion. It took a few months to complete but hard work pays off as I’m a Team Leader now!

Well done! Did doing the passport prepare you for the job?

I would say yes because you learn how to do a lot of things. The passport tells you what you need to do.

What did you learn on the passport?

I learnt about the logistics for when a new person is moving into the home – hosting them for a visit before they move in, introducing them to their keyworker, running through the licensing agreement and house rules, and sharing what young people can expect from us. I want young people to feel this is their home, not just a house.

As part of the passport, I went to shadow other team leaders in different St Christopher’s services too.

Were any of the tasks a surprise?

Making a rota is so much harder than it looks! I thought it would be so easy and rotating everyone’s names, but it’s not. You have to make sure staff members have time off to rest, rotate people’s weekends off and take flexible working hours into consideration. I’ve also learnt how to process timesheets – I wouldn’t want my pay to be messed up so it’s important for me to get it right for other people.

I also learnt about the things management do that you don’t think about, it’s given me a sense of gratitude for everything my manager does. They do risk assessments, put safety plans in place for young people and attend placement review meetings with young people and their social workers. They have to take a lot of information on board and see situations from multiples angles so they can make good, informed decisions.

What’s next in your career?

Helping young people will be my career for the rest of my life, I have a fondness for helping them. The things I want for my nephews and nieces are just what I want for St Christopher’s young people too. Within St Christopher’s, I want to become a home manager, then a regional manager, and eventually have a position in the senior leadership team.

Thank you to Tahir for telling his story. If you want a fulfilling career working with children and young people, apply to work at St Christopher’s today.