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"I never imagined I would work in a role that allowed me the opportunity to make such huge changes to people’s lives. It is now all I want to do."

I started working for Stockport Council in September 2007 as a Home Support Worker. I had no previous experience in care (other than family experience), so I considered myself to be very lucky to have got the job from my first application. My role was initially visiting people needing ‘long-term care’ and I had ‘regular’ service users and worked with a small team in a particular area. This was subsequently changed to a reablement service in 2009.

I was given the opportunity to undertake a Foundation Degree in Health & Social Care. This took 2 years and ran alongside my job. Half way through the degree, I completed a module where I was required to spend 2 days with a community physio and 2 days with a community Occupational Therapist. I really enjoyed both but felt that Occupational Therapy better complimented my role in the reablement team. I wanted to further my career following the Foundation Degree and I applied to Salford University to study for a Bsc Hons in Occupational Therapy. I commenced on a 4 year part time degree course in Sept 2011 and was able to combine studying with part time work for the Reablement Team.

I obtained my degree in July 2015 and was offered a secondment to the Equipment and Adaptations Team in 2016 which later became a permanent role. My role on this team was to visit people in their own homes to carry out assessments of need with regards to providing everything from simple equipment to major adaptations thus enabling service users to become more independent and increase safety during every day activities. I received a great deal of support from my fellow OT colleagues who were only too happy to help when I needed assistance which made me confident to ask when I needed guidance. The experience I gained from shadowing other members of my team facilitated a smooth transition from my previous role of support worker to that of an OT. After my initial induction onto the team I felt confident to go out into the community to carry out my own assessments, thus being able to recommend interventions that would quite literally have a huge impact on the way service users were able to live their lives and I was able to observe the changes first-hand when I re-visited them to review my interventions.

During my time as an OT, I particularly liked the cases which needed Moving & Handling input. In 2019 a post was advertised on the Moving & Handling Team. This is a specialist role and a higher grade. I knew I would enjoy specialising in this area and due to the experience I had gained as an OT on the team felt ready to apply for this role. I was successful in gaining this promotion and joined the team in July 2019. My role now involves visiting service users who need complex moving & handling intervention (be it 2 carer support and / or moving & handling equipment). I assess for the most appropriate equipment needed to facilitate safe transfers with commissioned carers, with the goal of ensuring there is a safe system of work in place for both the carers and the service user. I then create a moving & handling plan for the care agencies to follow, and review these periodically, or if we are informed that there has been a deterioration / change in moving and handling need. Again, I got lots of support in my new role, via my comprehensive induction, regular supervisions and the guidance (both verbally and by shadowing) of my colleagues in the team, which has helped me develop as a moving and handling co-ordinator.

Image of Lisa Whittaker, Occupational Therapist

My experience as a support worker really helped me as an Occupational Therapist because I was already used to visiting people in their own homes and identifying unmet need. The main difference being, as a support worker, I passed feedback on to my manager who would in turn contact a therapist. Now I am the therapist, I am able to make autonomous decisions / recommendations and provide my own interventions.

My journey into Occupational Therapy in Stockport has been quite long but it has been well worth it, and I would choose to follow the same route if I had the chance again in order to gain an appreciation of how care in the community is carried out and how therapy services compliment this.

I would recommend working as a LA OT because it allows you the responsibility of managing your own caseload, you can work alone and be and be creative in your approach to the interventions you wish to recommend.

When I started as a home carer I never imagined I would work in a role that allowed me the opportunity to make such huge changes to people’s lives. It is now all I want to do.