FOR Rae Markham, it was a chance encounter with a customer whilst working at Lush that led her to discover her dream career working within our residential care services.

Through her role as a supervisor at the Sunderland store, the 27-year-old became friendly with an adult named Fiona, who lives in one of our Sunderland residential homes.

Fiona, supported by her key worker, would regularly visit the cosmetics chain and Rae would spend time chatting with her and helping her to try out various bath bombs and lotions.

One day this woman came into the store, walked straight up to me and said, ‘What’s your name?’ – that was Fiona, Rae says.

“She would come into the store with her support staff once or twice a week. I thought that looked like a really lovely job, so I asked her key worker where she worked and she suggested I should apply.” 

Rae, from Chester-le-Street, did just that and was offered a full-time position as a Residential Child Carer at one of our children’s homes in September 2019, having just graduated from university. 

And, in her second year with NEAS, Rae had what she describes as a “full circle moment” when she secured a promotion to work within one of our adult residential homes, where she was appointed key worker for Fiona. 

“When I went to meet her, she did remember me from Lush,” Rae adds. “We went on holiday together, to spas, shopping … it was so nice. 

“I found it completely different to working in children’s residential though. When you’re working with the children it is more of a parental role, whereas with the adults you are supporting them to be as independent as possible.” 

Now, just three years since she joined the Society, the psychology graduate boasts the title of the North East Autism Society’s youngest assistant manager, having risen though the ranks to secure a management role at our Braemar Gardens home earlier this year. 

She says: “I am one of those people who always wants to progress – I will give anything a go and I am always looking for the next thing. 

Now that I am an assistant manager, I have my sights set on becoming manager one day.

As well as her regular duties, Rae is also part of the Society’s Positive Proactive Support team, which she joined just two months after starting at NEAS. 

The PPS team deliver training to all staff, including new starters during induction, to help them stay safe, and above all, prioritise the wellbeing and safety of the individuals the Society supports, on a day-to-day basis.

While this is an important part of Rae’s role within the Society, she wants potential applicants to realise the wealth of opportunities that are on offer through a career with NEAS. 

I don’t think people see the amazing opportunities that are on offer – you could be getting paid to go swimming, shopping, trampolining or even on holiday. And there is always room for progression.

Asked what qualities she, as a manager, would look for in potential candidates, Rae said that personality is often more important than experience when it comes to working in care. 

“It’s definitely more about who you are as a person,” she says. “But I’d be looking for someone who is kind, someone who wants to see the children or adults thrive and who wants to support them in gaining as much independence as possible. 

It’s not just a job to me – I honestly can’t see myself working anywhere else.

And, asked what her advice would be to anyone considering applying for a role with NEAS, Rae adds: “I would say just speak to someone. We have some amazing staff and there’s always people willing to help you within the Society.”

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