Like many families, the last few years have proved challenging. When we moved to Selby in North Yorkshire, my original plan was to set up a community counselling service. Then COVID-19 came along. Our family circumstances changed in 2022 and we took the decision to home school my youngest child. So that put a pause on work commitments. My husband Chris had lost his job as well, so I was quite concerned about his mental health. As a family, we wanted something positive to latch onto.
So we both signed up for the Step Into Care course. We each have a background in care, and neither of us were working, so there was nothing to lose. I’d done some WEA courses before and made some firm friends as a result. We don’t know many people in the area, so this was a good social opportunity too.
As somebody who is visually impaired, I rely heavily on Chris for all things in life. We complement each other extremely well. My new course mates were extremely supportive too and made me feel a key part of the group. As a therapist, you always embrace other people's lives and what they bring to the world. So, it was lovely to meet new people in a different situation.
Learning together was an interesting experience, as we’ve never done anything like that before. I’m more of an academic learner, where Chris is always happier learning in a practical, hands-on way. He had a hearing problem at school and his teachers wrote him off as the class clown. So, doing well in the WEA course was a big boost in confidence for him.
We were familiar with the course subject matter, but we all need to refresh our knowledge from time to time. Things are always changing and it’s helpful to see issues you know well from a different perspective. When you've worked in the care environment, there’s a risk of becoming quite stagnant in your thinking.
I found the course a really positive experience. We took part in the WEA film, which was fun too. The tutor, also Chris, has an uplifting, positive energy about him, which brought out the best from the group. It’s not your run-of-the-mill classroom-taught course. Chris helped us to learn in our own way.
Spectrum of opportunities
My husband has gained the confidence to consider care as a career path again. It has reignited his desire to get back into it, by reminding him that he has some prized skills and knowledge to offer.
Due to my disability, I think that formal care is beyond me nowadays. Also, I enjoy self-employment too much. So, the course has opened my mind to other opportunities that I hadn't considered before, especially in community care, where the spectrum of opportunities has broadened hugely in recent years.
I’d also love to write a self-help book one day related to my experiences in counselling and care, from the perspective of visual impairment. Loss of sight allows you to draw on different skills and senses, which is incredibly valuable given the need for empathy to help people with long-term health conditions.
Despite the growing demand for community-based services nationwide, Selby punches above its weight for a fairly small town. There’s a wealth of community provision and lots of positive changes through social prescribing. The WEA courses are part of this support network. They do a great job in giving learners the skills to find opportunities that sit outside traditional roles in care.