Caring as a career

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Being a parent is a tricky job at the best of times. Parents enter the role with no prior experience, no qualifications and even less knowledge of what’s to come. There’s no gradual induction or soft landings once your bundle of joy enters your life. If you add to this the additional challenges that a child who is born with disabilities brings and suddenly you are in a whole new world of unknowns.

As one of these parents I know first-hand how our view of disability is based on what people can’t do rather than what they can do- we often call it the medical model of disability. It’s based on a view of deficits and abilities that sit outside of a “normal” definition. Even just typing that sentence feels uncomfortable but when you realise that society sees your child in that way- as broken- it’s heart-breaking.

My child is so much more than a deficit diagnosis. He is a happy, cheeky, smiley individual who knows his own mind- and certainly lets us know it too! He is also curious and innovative and has taught me more about myself and the world around me than I ever thought possible. He has shown me the injustice in the world but also the light and the excitement in a way only a child can and it’s not until I stopped and looked at things with his eyes that I saw things differently.

There is a strong message that I now bring to work as a consequence. The societal view of disability explores how our environment is the inhibitor of ability but it’s not because someone can’t walk that they can’t enter some buildings it’s the buildings that are the problem.  And it’s not just disability, – we routinely try to fix people because they have a certain characteristic- be it race, gender, sexual orientation but we are less inclined to question what barriers there are at play and how we can customise to support full participation.

I’ve also seen people like me who have caring responsibilities struggle to maintain a working life and “almost half of the people in poverty in the UK are in a household with a disabled person or are disabled themselves,” Tinson et al (2016). Furthermore, children with disabilities are far more likely to experience child poverty (39%) living off benefits that barely cover basic provisions let alone the specialist equipment and resources estimated to be an average additional cost of £581 a month. As carer’s the ability to work flexibly and to respond to life events as they happen is critical and it’s only through supportive line managers and flexible working policies that we can do this. The statistics back this up- for instance almost 67% of midwives say that they would consider staying or returning to work in the NHS if there were more opportunities to work flexibly.  

It’s not one way either, carer’s have a lot to offer employers. You want resilience? Innovation? Agile and diverse skillsets? Ability to multi- task and project manage? Yes- we have all those skills in buckets!

I entitled this blog- “Caring as a career” because I started off as a nurse in my professional life and now find myself caring as a parent, but I’m also a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a friend so like most of you I have made it my personal career too and I think we sometimes overlook the power of caring. I care for my colleagues and my team at work, and I think this makes me a better manager and leader. My child has taught me to embrace my caring abilities and not to be afraid to stand up for what matters. So, I will continue to be a voice for carers, patients as well as for my child and I am excited by the possibilities that looking at things from a different perspective can bring us in developing Talent and leadership in the coming years.

Written by Lyndsay Bunting, Head of Talent and Leadership – Midlands

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