I can recall the exact moment I realised CTSEW would be a good fit for me…

I was sitting in that now familiar narrow little hallway, upstairs in the organisation’s headquarters at County Hospital, waiting to be invited into the gloriously cramped boardroom/server room for my interview.

The hallway had boxes badly stacked in one corner, bashed up old chairs, a random (empty) glass display cabinet and eclectic posters covering everything from What to do in case of Fire through to the ‘specials’ on offer at the hospital canteen that week (and not a Covid poster in sight) I could hear multiple, busy conversations happening in the room to my left, interspersed with moments of laughter. It was at that point I realised this was a good place to work – somewhere genuine and somewhere with heart. Luckily I was offered the job!

That interview was three years ago now and in that time CTSEW has had a big impact on me. I hope I’ve made an impact on the organisation too.

I don’t think CTSEW will ever be a slick, corporate organisation and it’s all the better for it. It’s not a place to work if you want to become wealthy or sit around and collect an easy wage. But it is a place that is warm, welcoming, interesting, fun and absolutely committed to supporting the people that matter. It’s a place that suits those willing to be flexible, get stuck into doing different things and be themselves. There are so many brilliant people here, doing amazing work, every single day.

My role started with a focus specifically on marketing and communications and I developed CTSEW’s first communications plan, launched its website and social media channels and designed dedicated dashboard graphics to highlight the impact of our services. I think we’ve done really well over the last few years to improve our brand communications – showing who we are, what we’re about as a charity, and what we’re doing to support carers. Staff have taken to using social media really well to showcase the impact of their work and tools like WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have become essential tools for us to communicate with carers, supporters and partners.

 

I’ve been really pleased with some of the key media coverage we’ve managed to secure, particularly working with Channel 4 News Home Affairs Correspondent Andy Davies on his feature on carers in Torfaen affected by the pandemic.

I sometimes feel a bit sceptical about awareness days or weeks, but working with the team who’ve coordinated this year’s Carers Week activities has been fantastic and the drive and enthusiasm of staff in sharing ideas and making things happen has been inspiring. The sheer volume of interactions we’ve had on social media through the week reflects that – people like CTSEW – our services, our people and our work.

I think the staff led fundraising and awareness raising activities we’ve been involved in during my time here have been brilliant and everyone’s lockdown efforts doing things like Arif’s head shave, Lauren’s Couch to 5k, Sandra’s mountain climbing, The Christmas raffle and Carer Friendly poetry and Art competitions have been great – not only in terms of raising funds, but also as a way to bring people together during challenging times.

My role has included more of a focus on business development over the last year or so, both working in partnership with other members of the team and individually. It’s been amazing to work on projects like the Welsh Government emergency grants for carers and securing funding from WCVA so we can set up the really exciting new Carer Experiences programme that will make a massive impact for carers.

One of the most rewarding things I’ve been involved with and learned from is being part of our oversight group and helping with the day to day running of the organisation. Internal communication is such a big thing (it’s always flagged as both a positive and negative in every organisation I’ve ever worked) and everyone has a big part to play in ensuring we are communicating effectively. I think my role in the oversight group has been to help shape the messages and information we all rely on to understand what’s going on across the organisation in an objective way. I’ve loved being part of the PIECE forum and hearing from different people about their experiences of working for CTSEW and working on things like our staff survey that gives a good indication of how people are feeling. The PIECE forum has given me a genuine insight into different parts of the organisation and I think it’s a real success story from the last year or so for CTSEW.

Through the autumn and winter my work was focused on ensuring our carers consultation went out to as many people as possible to help us shape a new plan for the organisation. We were able to get invaluable feedback from over 500 people and for me the best part was definitely speaking to small groups of carers as part of our dedicated focus groups, hearing about the issues they face and getting a better understanding of the complexities of being a carer.

And I think that is really what keeps me motivated and interested – hearing people’s stories. I still enjoy good old fashioned storytelling, through words and images, more than anything else.

The last year has undoubtedly been tough in all sorts of ways. I’ve had the luxury of being able to work from home, but that has presented its own challenges – from the dreaded home-schooling and my dog barking during every single video call ever, through to periods of time that have felt really quite hard – especially through the long winter lockdown.

But with a new organisational plan in place, our teams working hard to develop their own creative and ambitious plans for the next two years, exciting new programmes and roles happening, better terms and conditions for staff and a full rebrand about to start – it feels like CTSEW is in a good place now.

I’m sad to be leaving but feel proud of what we’ve achieved and I’m excited to see what this charity looks like next year and beyond.

I’ve loved working with you all and I’ll really miss you.

Ben