Chris started out as a coal miner; going through the strike in the 80s. Since then, he has worked as a dinner man and teaching assistant at a school for autistic children as well as working in prisons and mental health units; eventually become a service manager at a hostel in Barnsley. Overall, he has been working with vulnerable people for 18 years. He is now the Service Manager of two of our services in Barnsley.
Working for Centrepoint
“Centrepoint is totally different to other organisations I’ve worked for in a good way. When Centrepoint took over the service in Barnsley, we received loads of emails from colleagues across the country welcoming us because they were the first footprint here. Getting that welcome and feedback was really positive. The Chief Executive personally came here to Barnsley and he always remembers everyone. You’re not just a number when you work for Centrepoint.”
According to those who work with him, Chris will often be found up a ladder with a paintbrush in his hand. “I’m very driven and I’ll get my hands dirty. I’ll clean a room, I’ll paint a room and I think that’s fed through to the staff team. If they see a manager doing it, it’s leading by example. It’s about standards. I think if you give a person a nice place; something they’ve never had, then they do tend to respect it. It also reduces your budget which you would normally spend on repairs. Plus it gets done more quickly.”
Chris thinks it’s really important within services to avoid using locum staff. “We want the young people in our services to see familiar faces and to develop trust. Staff share their own experiences with the young people – some of them have been through similar things. This enables the young people to appreciate that you can move on from a situation and if you want to change, then Centrepoint can help you change,” he says.
“We have hardworking friendly staff that you can have a laugh with. You need a sense of humour in this job. My team know I’m fully committed and they can call me anytime.”
The Young People
The young people within Centrepoint’s services come from a variety of backgrounds and have been through all sorts of experiences. “Some of the problems they have are from what happened to them in the past. Some are from substances they’ve taken which cause all kinds of problems; new substances are coming on the market all the time. Spice and things like that are a big problem in Barnsley. It’s good we’re here for support because a lot of services in Barnsley have been cut. We’ve got recovery steps and good connections with the drugs services.”
“We don’t promise the young people something we can’t deliver on. We tell the young people as it is. Staff are very experienced and don’t deal with any nonsense. We strike a fair balance. We can have a laugh, but at the same time if they do something wrong, we let them know. If they engage, they get more out of their time here and we can support them. There are lots of rewards and incentives to engaging with education, training and employment. We also value their input and we have regular house and team meetings. If they ask for things and need support we can provide that, but we also have high expectations. That’s so important.”
For Chris, eating together with the young people is also really important. “We have roast dinners and cook and eat together. It’s nice when they’re all sat in kitchen eating because that’s what you would do at home so it’s got a family feel.”
Mental Health Support
“We’ve got a good set up here: the health hub, the learning pod, and we’ve got the volunteer coordinator. Within two weeks of a young person coming into our service, if there are any health issues they are refereed to Monica and Hayley on the health team. Whereas a mental health referral in Barnsley take nine months before they’ve even got an appointment and in that time span they could have left our service or something serious could have happened so it’s really important that we’ve got all these services. We are very fortunate in Barnsley.”
Chris is planning to retire soon and will be sorely missed.