"From the very beginning I have witnessed incredible care and support provided to our clients by our staff"

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health and safety

The culture here is based on the belief that we can make a difference through our vision to ensure that everyone, no matter what their life experience, background or challenges, will have the opportunity to lead their life to the full. Our wonderful staff put this into practice every day.

My name is Julia and I am the Health & Safety Practice Lead based at Bell Lane. I joined Southdown on the 16th December 1993 when it was known as BHAGHA.

I was 39 when I joined the organisation with no idea that I would still be here. It actually doesn’t seem that long. There has never been a moment that I have been bored. My job role is as diverse as the organisation and I love it.

I’ve been frustrated at times, mostly because I like to get things done straightaway which is not always possible for a lot of reasons. I also don’t have the best business head! I think there may be times that some may have wished that I would retire especially when I make recommendations that involve spending other people’s budgets!

My key responsibilities include developing and updating existing health and safety policies and procedures and their related forms; conducting health and safety audits across our Learning Disability services; and developing and monitoring risk assessments in accordance with up-to-date legislation, industry standards and best practice. I also consult on housing adaptations, refurbishments and new build projects; contribute to training programmes; and work with HR and other departments to carry out staff welfare assessments.

My days are as varied as my responsibilities. If it’s an audit day I travel to a Learning Disability service having checked my emails first before driving there. Audits can take four to five hours to carry out on site, followed by a couple of hours to write up and complete actions when I’m back in the office.

On another day I might be working on updating policy procedures and other documents like risk assessments, PEEPs or checklist forms; visiting services to carry out aids and adaptation assessments; writing up a report of findings of each visit and, where adaptations are required, drafting drawings with specifications for property services and/or Occupational Therapy referral.

In addition, I spend time answering emails, phone calls, and face-to-face requests for advice on a daily basis from different teams within Southdown. I also support my brilliant colleagues in the Health and Safety team.

I feel so blessed that I have a job I love and enjoy. I have my good days and bad days like most people but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else or for anyone else. The best part is being with amazing people - my wonderful colleagues, plus all the staff and clients across the organisation who do amazing work. I love visiting individuals and services and supporting them as best as I can within my role.

The best thing about working here is the people and the commitment of the managers and staff teams in all divisions across the organisation. People care about what they do and their clients’ welfare. This is especially evident in the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone out there on the frontline is a hero.

The culture here is based on the belief that we can make a difference through our vision to ensure that everyone, no matter what their life experience, background or challenges, will have the opportunity to lead their life to the full. Our wonderful staff put this into practice every day.

Since joining Southdown, I have worked in several different teams. After the initial contract I joined was disbanded, I worked in several roles supporting members of Preston Park Recovery Centre and working with the Housing Support and Community Support teams.

In 1992 a new set of health and safety regulations came out and employers in the UK were given four years to implement them. All work activities with the potential to cause serious harm were required to be risk assessed and for Southdown, the manual handling operations regulations would have the most impact for our Learning Disability services. I was asked if I would be prepared to take on the role of implementing safe systems of work with regard to safe people handling in these services.

My role changed to Moving & Handling Advisor in 1995 and for the next 2 years I continued to provide support in the community-based projects and as a relief Support Worker for Learning Disability services. It soon became clear that moving & handling was just one element of health and safety and that unless all aspects, regulations, guidance and industry standards came together you could never fully have safe and healthy work environments. So in 1997 I became the Health & Safety Advisor. By this time I had trained up a colleague to take over the moving & handling role while I concentrated on health and safety systems.

Over the years I have continually studied for relevant professional health & safety qualifications. I’ve had a number of different job titles as well as line managers, but I have been working in Health and Safety ever since. It is not for the faint hearted. It’s a challenge and there is no time for complacency as health and safety is in perpetual motion!

In the last 26+ years I have been witness to so many changes within and across the organisation - starting from a small organisation, to medium, to the large scale business Southdown is now.

The geographical growth in particular has been a big change with Southdown providing services across the whole of Sussex both in the Housing, Community Support Services and Learning Disability Support Services. At times the sheer enormity of the growth and development of the diverse range of services has created some challenges for departments and for individuals but the foundations of the organisation are sound and will remain so.

I have had the privilege of working with amazing colleagues over the years who have grown in their skills and confidence within their roles and within our team. From the very beginning I have witnessed incredible care and support provided to our clients by our staff. I have many fond memories of clients that have passed on and staff whom have moved on.