Chris is one of Somerset’s longest-standing support workers. But he is also brother to Jane, who Discovery supports at the Seahorse Centre. Being both colleague and family member gives Chris a unique perspective:
“Jane and I are only three years apart, so we’re very close. The men in white coats said she would never amount to anything, would never walk or talk, would be better off living out her days in an institution. Mum disagreed, and Jane lived her life at home. It was hard, really hard. The finger pointing, the discrimination, dealing with the hair, blood and saliva of a seizure. Not enjoying life’s milestones like getting married (or scrumping apples!) When Mum died in 2015, I fought (like a dervish – but that’s a separate story. Don’t get me started on assessment processes) to get Dad some help with her. The family was in real crisis.
Eventually, and I write this with a lump in my throat, we got a place at the Seahorse Centre in Minehead, and Jane’s been supported by the fabulous Emma “no problem Chris, let’s make it happen for Jane and your Dad” Cherry and her wonderful team ever since.”
“Jane brings some beautiful gifts into our lives and her own life is as ordinary as I believe possible. That’s thanks to the shared efforts of her family and her support team, all standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before, proudly working to change society’s attitudes.”
“That doesn’t mean that everything is always rosy. Nor does it mean that I want her support team to do everything for her. For example, like many families, I want to be very closely involved in all her health appointments. That’s one of the things that matters to me. It’s not a trust thing, it’s an emotional thing. Colleagues need to understand that. Like every other family, I have spent a lifetime fighting for Jane’s rights, beating down the brick walls, enduring sleepless, fearful nights. Just because I work for the company doesn’t mean I’m about to stop any of that. But because I am lucky enough to wear two hats, I can understand why things happen as they do.”
Jane was directly responsible for Chris’ journey to become a professional support worker, in fact. The story began at the age of 17, in the family home, in the company of a community nurse and her boss. “The nurse was talking about Jane,” recalls Chris, “and I asked her why she wasn’t talking to her.” The boss offered me a job then and there. I suppose these days you’d call it living our values. Either way, I’ve worked in support ever since.”