Reesha Armstead is a local friendly and hardworking volunteer from East Leake. Below she talks about how vital support assistants are for individuals like herself who live with a disability.
I live with my husband in Costock (near East Leake) and have two daughters. I’m someone who everyone seems to know, and I do my best to support our local community. For over 20 years, I’ve given my time freely as a full-time volunteer. I am Chair of Governors at Brookside Primary School and I’ve worked with several schools and Brownie Packs to teach children about disability awareness. I am a writer, currently working on my first book on the impact of the pandemic on disabled people.
I wouldn’t be able to do any of this, as well as looking after my home and my family, without my trusty team of Support Assistants because although I do a lot for other people in my own way, I can do very little for myself. You see, I live with Cerebral Palsy. I have a wobbly body that I can’t always control and a speech impairment to boot. My wheelchair gets me to where I need to be and I choose to own my disability, I don’t allow my disability to own me.
My assistants do everything for me that I can’t do for myself, including personal care, cooking and housework. Then there’s the fun side (pre-covid); coming shopping with me, enjoying an evening at the theatre, having a nice pub meal or going on holiday!
I deal with recruitment, training and running the payroll and I manage my staff in the best way possible. I strongly believe that being a successful employer is based on a two-way relationship, built on mutual trust and respect. This brings huge loyalty, I’ve had one assistant for 20 years and another for 13. My team are the key to my independence and in some ways, I guess I’m the key to theirs – I do pay their wages after all!
Sometimes, people move on and this can leave a gaping hole. Being short staffed puts pressure on other staff, my family and can limit my ability to do what I need to do. I’m currently advertising but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to recruit using the usual channels, such as Indeed and Gumtree. Advertising on Facebook and in local shops has brought a little success but I’ve even resorted to handing out fliers to people when I’m out and about!
It’s clear I’m not alone. A great many disabled people I know are in a similar situation. It’s widely accepted that people working in the care industry are severely undervalued and underpaid, and this needs to change. With so many hospitals, care homes and the multitude of private care agencies all in desperate need, small, private individual employers like us are seemingly invisible and often overlooked. You would think it would be very appealing during Covid times, the opportunity to work one-on-one with someone, in a very safe environment.
Hopefully, the right person will come my way soon, but if you’re thinking about this type of work then please consider giving your time to someone like me.
- Reesha Armstead
If you are interested in becoming a support assistant to Reesha, please contact her directly via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org