Here at Autism Wessex, we have a simply incredible team made up of wonderful people who day in, day out go above and beyond to ensure the safety, wellbeing and happiness of our students and clients. We call them our Autism Superheroes, because they will most definitely be there to save the day.
Today we're meeting Autism Superhero, Joanne Jacob, who is Deputy Manager for Community Support Services West. Jo's work has been truly remarkable during this unsettling time of Covid-19.
What does your day to day look like?
As Deputy Manager for Community Support, I oversee and look after one of the teams over in the West. This covers anywhere from Sherborne to Poole; I support everyone to be able to carry on doing their role as support workers and be there to give them guidance, encouragement and assistance whenever they need it - day or night.
I'll also do a lot of paperwork, my main role is office-based but, especially in current times, I am often our on shift to offer extra support to our team.
How long have you been with Autism Wessex?
I started in this job five years ago this year! The time has really flown, it's crazy but it's been the most wonderful journey.
I didn't start out in the care industry, in fact I began as a shop assistant, but my son, who has high functioning autism, needed to be cared for when he came out of mainstream schooling at 11 years old; over those years, I realised how much I wanted to make a difference not only to his life, but to others who have autism, too. After two years he re-entered school, and I began working with Autism Wessex.
I started out as a support worker, progressed to a key worker, and now here I am as Deputy Manager, the team have been supportive of my goals and I couldn't wish for a more rewarding job.
What's your favourite part of the job?
There's so many but, if I had to choose, it would be when you walk into a shift and the clients or students are just ecstatic to see you; it shows that you've made a real impact on their life and you make them happy. That's what I pride myself on, being able to make a difference, no matter how big or small, for the people I work with.
How has the job changed since the Covid-19 outbreak?
Well, because of Covid, I had to move out of my house. My daughter, who also works for Autism Wessex, began to show symptoms but I hadn't seen her for a week so, I had the option to either isolate with her or carry on working. Her boyfriend is at home to look after her therefore, it was a no brainer really, I needed to be at work; I needed to be there to help and support my staff, I needed to be available to pick up vital medication and everyday essentials for clients.
But, with this came the issue of having no home to go to but luckily, I was offered a holiday let to stay in, in Weymouth town centre. The couple who own the house offered the keys free of charge, it was an incredible act of kindness, one that I'll never forget. It wasn't a hard decision to carry on working but I miss my family.
Of course, in terms of work, all office related work has been shifted from the office to our homes, and ours have most certainly changed - it's not your average 9-5, it's whenever we're needed. With care roles, we're also short staffed, either from vulnerable employees needing to isolate or people falling ill, so we're all pitching in for all parts of the service and picking up extra shifts where we can, even if this meas working double hours, working on days off and cancelling annual
But what's fantastic is that not once have I heard anyone complain, this is what we signed up for and this is the point of the care industry. I am here for my staff and my service users at any time of the day, or night, Covid-19 or no Covid-19.
Have you got a nice story to share?
So many! But I think my favourite at the moment is one vulnerable client who can't go shopping or visit her parents has had the opportunity to have internet fitted, I've never seen her so happy. She can now connect with her loved ones, watch Netflix and has a firestick - it's a huge improvement because she's now occupied and despite her struggles, she's managing with the new routine so well, it's lovely to see.