How Karen’s strong leadership inspired positive change at Station Road
When Karen Parker-Farthing started her role as service manager at Station Road, a residential service for individuals with learning disabilities and complex needs in Kettering, Northants, it was the start of a new chapter for her.
Prior to this she had been the manager at another Consensus service; Windsor Avenue, for over 13 years, however, a period of ill health had forced her to slow down and take some time off to take care of herself and recover.
It was also the start of a new chapter for Station Road. For a variety of reasons, the service had historically had a high turnover of managers and a lack of consistent leadership had resulted in low morale among the support team and a general lack of trust in management.
The team were very much in need of a good leader. Someone who was already well-established within the organisation who could ensure the vision, values and purpose were firmly embedded within the service; someone who was very experienced and could support, inspire and invest in them through training and development; someone who was firm but fair, who could set clear boundaries but would also be approachable and listen to their concerns; someone who could lift them up with their personality and inject a sense of fun, good humour and positivity into each day.
Most of all, someone who was passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of the individuals they support and could bring everyone together to achieve this.
That someone was Karen.
A change in culture and approach
Karen worked hard to form a strong bond with each member of the support team. She was initially met with some resistance and building trust was a process that took time.
“The team needed to be supported, reassured and coached but also needed to be managed and given clear boundaries and expectations, as their confidence in me grew positive changes started to happen,” said Karen.
Every good manager needs a good support network
Having a support network of people who share the same vision of high quality, seamless, integrated and person-centred care has been critical to instilling positive change at the service and Karen is quick to acknowledge this.
“Melissa is the deputy and clinical lead at the Service. She is the best deputy I have ever had; the support she gives is amazing. I also have a fantastic Ops Manager, Chris Gell who is extremely supportive and always willing to go the extra mile,” said Karen.
Ensuring every moment is an opportunity to develop independence
Karen has worked with the team to ensure approaches like Person-Centred Active Support are fully entrenched into all aspects of an individual’s day.
“From supporting them to take the washing themselves and keeping their rooms clean and tidy to supporting them to do the parts of their personal care they can do and then supporting them with the rest, it is about encouraging independence wherever we can,” said Karen.
Activities, activities, activities!
Led by activities co-ordinator, Michelle, the team have put a lot of effort and creativity into the range of activities and experiences offered at the service to support individual’s independence and wellbeing.
“The staff have been amazing and have really rallied around doing activities. We have an activity board with all our activities on; today we had chocolate tasting. We had different chocolates in different cups and individuals had to taste them and say what each was, which everyone loved.
“We have also done a lot of work in the garden and have planted some beautiful sensory flowers.”
New faces and personalities bring a new dynamic
The service has a self-contained flat adjacent to the main building and two supported individuals from another Consensus service who are more independent have recently moved in.
“They are young and active and have greater independence, so they have brought a new dynamic to the house and lots of additional energy which everyone is enjoying,” said Karen.
Walking into the service now, the shift in atmosphere and culture is clear to see. The service has a positive, relaxed atmosphere and is always full of laughter. People are confident and competent in their roles and there is a strong relationship between the management team and support staff which has been built on a foundation of mutual respect and trust.
Reflecting on the positive change in Station Road under Karen’s leadership, Chris Gell, Operations Manager for the Midlands said, “I have known Karen as a colleague for 10 years now, initially as a fellow Service Manager and more recently as Operations manager. There aren’t enough superlatives for Karen really.”
“First of all, Karen is a lot of fun, she has a great sense of humour and this comes across brilliantly whenever you speak to her and she uses this in her management style.
“The second thing is her honesty, Karen will tell you exactly how she feels about something, she will tell you straight, which for me as a line manager is perfect, I need to know that and it makes my job in supporting Karen and the service so much better.
“The third thing is Karen’s skills around managing the team and everyone involved with Station Road. Everyone loves Karen, the staff team, the individuals, families, external professionals, everyone. That has a lot to do with the humour and the honesty, but you just know when someone is a good person and Karen is a good person and it shows in everything that she does.
“It is not often that you meet someone who is truly person centred in their approach and without realising it Karen is that. As a person she lights up a place with her character and charisma and Station Road have benefited from this.
Karen makes every day special and the service is such a good place to be, I always enjoy coming to Station Road and seeing the activities and fun things that they do.”