Pendle support worker nominated for prestigious national care award
A Pendle support worker is waiting to find out if she will be named winner of a Great British Care Award.
Julie Birkett (32), who works in Colne at the supported housing scheme Limes Place, is in the running for a care newcomer award.
The mother-of-three switched from retail to care work at the height of the pandemic last November. And according to her boss, Mark Storey, Julie made a huge difference to the people she was supporting from day one.
Julie said a chance meeting with Mark, who was a customer at the shop where she used to work, led to a job interview and the immediate offer of a support worker position.
She said that making the move into care work had been on her mind since her dad was diagnosed with a fatal brain tumour three years earlier.
"Three years ago, my dad received a brain tumour diagnosis and was given 10 weeks to live. He was only 59 years old," she said.
"He lost all movement down one side, became incontinent and lost the ability to talk. During this time I helped my mum nurse him at home before he passed.
"Seeing all the nurses and carers come in, and do a brilliant job, was really comforting at an awful time for us, and it's then that I started to feel like working in the care sector would be something I wanted to do."
Since taking up her new position at Limes Place, a purpose built supported housing scheme that provides residential and personal care for people living with mental health conditions, Julia has introduced a number of activities that have proved a hit with the tenants.
Tuesdays are now games nights, Wednesday has been renamed Walking Wednesdays, encouraging everyone to get some exercise and fresh air and Thursday is choir practice. A sponsored litter pick next month will raise funds to start an arts and crafts group, one of Julie's passions.
Julie said she recognises the importance of keeping active and busy, after the first lockdown hit her hard.
She said: "I was furloughed and it really had a big effect on my mental health. All the days ran into one and I didn't get dressed for days at a time.
"So when I started working at Limes Place I knew if someone with no previous mental health issues could be so affected by the lockdown, then people living with conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia would no doubt be really struggling.
"This made me want to start some activities up so all the tenants had things to look forward to throughout the week and give them some hope back and a bit of fun and excitement too.
"It's really changed Limes Place. All the tenants, even ones who were unsociable, are now really enjoying these activities."
Mark Storey, registered manager at Limes Place, said: "From her first week Julie was ready to take this new challenge and has continued to grow in confidence ever since.
"She has quickly become a valued member of the team and is a pleasure to work with.
"Julie has built fantastic relationships with tenants and since her first day, she has made a huge difference to the lives of the people living at the service.
"She is ambitious, creative and flexible with a constant willingness and eagerness to take on a new challenge. Julie is a very creative individual that enjoys being imaginative and passing these skills onto others.
“I don’t believe Julie recognises how much of a difference she continues to make and how well respected she is by all at Limes Place. I hope that she continues to gain knowledge and confidence within the months to come and she would be very well deserving of this award."
Anybody wishing to contribute to Julie's litter pick fundraiser on December 3rd for Limes Place's new arts and craft club here.
Julie will find out if she has won a Great British Care Award at a gala dinner at the Kimpton Hotel in Manchester on Saturday, November 13th.