Matthew – who manages the Opportunities Service in our North Division – is one of over 2,000 people employed by Affinity Trust who are committed to delivering our mission of enabling the people we support to meet their potential.
The Opportunities Service currently supports 48 people with learning disabilities to increase their independence skills and participate in leisure activities and hobbies. ‘It is an extremely varied job – we could be supporting people to manage money, travel on public transport, go shopping or to take part in a wide range of mainstream activities in the community. We do loads of things – cookery courses, craft workshops, bowling, football, building bird boxes, swimming… entirely dictated by the supported person’s interests. It is a great job.’ explains Matthew.
Matthew has now been with the Opportunities Service for five years – in a number of roles. All of them are very different to his previous career, as a Hospitality Manager for a private health club. ‘When I was working for the health club I supposedly had a ‘good job’ yet I found myself feeling unhappy. The members I was organising events for were extremely affluent but not very polite – in fact they quite rude sometimes – and not at all grateful for the amazing opportunities they had. I decided there had to be a more satisfying job out there – and I was right! I have been delighted to discover just how fantastic it is to support people with learning disabilities, to get to know them, see them gain new skills, have fun and live their lives the way they want. It really is so rewarding.’
Matthew admits that he has always been ambitious. ‘I always wanted to manage the service, and I’m delighted to be doing so. Affinity Trust is a good employer and offers you the training opportunities and chances to progress. However you do have to grasp every chance and move outside of your comfort zone. This can be a challenge sometimes, but it was – and is – really worth it.’
‘It’s a hard job to beat’
Although Matthew is now extremely happy in his role, it wasn’t that easy at the beginning. ‘I started as a Support Worker, and I had never met anyone with a learning disability. For the first week I thought I had made a huge mistake – the unknown is always scary, and this was a whole aspect of life I hadn’t seen before. But the second week I started to get to know people got some confidence and training and I have never looked back. I would say to people thinking of doing this to give it a go, you may surprise yourself like I did. You don’t need experience but you do need to be prepared to learn and be flexible. If it’s right for you, it is a hard job to beat. I actually look forward to coming to work now, instead of dreading it. There are not many places to work that you can say that about.’