Justin Smith Celebrates 25 years of continuous service

Posted 21/07/2022

Operational Manager Justin Smith has shared his journey to celebrate serving 25 years of continuous service

For me, today marks 25 years continuous service, 14 of those years with Thera East Anglia. That probably requires some explanation. I was transferred over to Thera East Anglia as part of a tender back in 2008. The continuous service counts from the NHS Trust I transferred from. So, does continuous service count? I reckon it does, and I will tell you why. I have been on a journey with a good few people we support during those 25 years, and some staff too. I have been with some of the people we support on their journey from life in a Learning Disability Hospital to their superb support today with Thera East Anglia. Some staff have been on that journey, or part of it with me. So yes, the continuous service counts.

My journey is actually a little longer than 25 years (more like 28). Back in 1994, as a University graduate I applied for a job as a Support Worker with what was then Granta Housing Society. I got the job and supported four gentlemen with a learning disability in their wonderful home in Waterbeach – Cambridgeshire. During my career I found that many excellent staff started their journey with Granta. I found that the leadership within the home and the organisation to be excellent and underpinned by superb values. This was the real start of my journey.

After three happy years with Granta I became a Senior Support Worker with the Lifespan NHS Trust. I spent three months supporting people at the Ida Darwin Hospital. We aimed to support them to leave life in an institution to supported living in their own home. This was a challenging time. I am pleased and proud to report that we still support those same gentlemen to this day. This is thanks to the excellent work of our staff and the leadership of our managers. During this time, I met people who would inspire and influence me more than I can say. People like Bruce Tainsh and Yvette Ferguson, who I went on to work with for years. I still work with Yvette, who is one of my main sources of support and inspiration.

I had two wonderful managers named Siobhan and Caroline in my latter days with the NHS. They supported me to study at the Tizard Centre – University of Kent. In the end I studied there twice and got under my belt the Diploma in Applied Psychology of Learning Disability, and the BSc in Applied Psychology in Intellectual Disability (ABA). Bruce introduced me to the work he was doing as a PROACT SCIPr-UK Instructor, and before I knew it, I had joined him. My journey supporting staff via staff training began also. The work around PBS and PROACT SCIPr-Uk has been a huge influence on my work over the years. In the overlap between working with the NHS and transferring to Thera East Anglia I was seconded to work for Cambridgeshire County Council’s Fenland Team as a Behaviour Analyst. I learned so much from this team: it was an amazing experience.

Then came Thera East Anglia. Learning that the support you provide is out for tender is a scary time. In 2008, my colleagues and I were very nervous about what would happen next. In the end, Thera East Anglia won the tender. Before I knew it, I was working with an organisation that specialised in providing excellent person-centred support to people with a learning disability. I need not have been nervous, from very early on Thera East Anglia was so supportive. In the next few years I worked with a couple of great Managing Directors and various senior managers. The learning curve was steep.

However, nothing prepared me for when Lorna came along! THAT was a learning curve. In the most recent years with Thera East Anglia, under Lorna’s leadership, I learned more than I had in many years before. I now work with an amazing senior management team. I have had the pleasure of being surrounded by excellent Support Workers, Senior Support Workers, Team Coordinators, and Community Support Leaders. I have also learnt a huge amount from our amazing Service Quality Director – David Parker!
When things get tough (and we are working through tough times), I reflect on the journey I have been on. It occurs to me that it is all about the amazing people I have worked alongside, and the people I have supported alongside those staff. You can never have worked so long that you have nothing to left to learn.

Here’s to a few more years! Where’s my gold carriage clock?