Farewell to two unsung heroes

January 2021

We say thank you to two of our long-standing mental health service managers

Two of our long-standing service managers retired from their social care careers at the end of December 2020.

At this time during the pandemic when people leave their jobs we can’t do big and emotional retirement parties and celebrations. The best we can do is a slightly awkward Zoom tea and cake event where it is really hard to convey in an authentic way the genuine gratitude and sadness that we feel when people who have done so much for our services and cause move on. In any event – both of these managers – Diana and Allison - were adamant that they didn't want to have any kind of leaving celebration and of course we wanted to respect their wishes.

The fact that neither of them wanted a fuss is very typical of many people who quietly work their socks off in our world but aren’t keen on being in the spotlight and centre stage.

So, in the absence of me having been able to give a speech at a leaving occasion and tell them directly, I want to tell you about them. I want as many people as possible to celebrate with me what they have achieved in their working lives and why we all need to be grateful that people like them are out there grafting for the whole of their working lives because they care and because they believe in people, in communities and in social justice. They won’t thank me for this but sometimes important things like this need to be said!

Both Diana and Allison got valuable work and life experience under their belts before they both trained as social workers - Alison around 30 years ago and Diana around 20 .

Once qualified, Allison specialised in mental health work in West Sussex from the outset. She did further training to become an Approved Social Worker and then took on a senior social work role working in local mental health services. Allison has always had a passion for learning and development and was then able to pursue this interest by moving into a council staff training role which she enjoyed.

Following this, Allison took up a secondment into the voluntary sector at the Corner House Mental Health Resource Centre in Southwick where she then stayed, contributing as a trainer and then in the last few years as a service manager. Just over a year ago the Corner House came under the management of West Sussex Mind which is when Allison joined us.

During her time with the Corner House Allison contributed so much. She developed and led many self-help groups and courses for people being supported by the service including around food and mood, mindfulness and creative writing (all passions). She also supported many individuals in their personal recovery journeys and I am sure there are many individuals grateful for this support. More recently as a service manager, she supported the service and staff during a significant period of change as the service moved under our management and we are very grateful to her for that.

Diana started her career as a social worker in criminal justice and substance misuse services in the Midlands. She then worked as a social worker in London before starting her working life in West Sussex as a team leader in local drug and alcohol services and then a team leader with West Sussex Carers' support. She joined us as a service manager in 2016.

During her time with us she transformed our Worthing service, doubling the number of individuals it was helping and hugely increasing the range of support offered. She also helped to establish our BeOk young people's mental health service and families in Mind parental mental health service. In the last year she has led the development of our GP services in the Worthing area.

Diana has achieved so much by her hard work but also through her skills and dedication to being a manager and to her staff team. She will be hugely missed by them. Like Allison, Diana has a passion for learning and development and has been instrumental in embedding reflective practice in our organsiation and bringing new ideas and concepts into our work. During their careers and as they became senior workers and managers, both Allison and Diana have supported and helped to train many social workers taking placements and working with universities to oversee these placements and as practice assessors and educators. This has not only contributed to our organisation and services by bringing in new people to support our work and learn about mental health but also has helped to support how we grow social care professionals in West Sussex.

People like Allison and Diana could have taken different paths that would have been less stressful and more financially rewarding but they have both chosen to do something very meaningful and important with their working lives and through this both have made a huge contribution in many ways. Both of them have exciting plans for their retirement from these roles and their social care careers. I won't share them here because they probably wouldn't want me to but I know they will still be continuing to do so much and make a difference in their new endeavours.

So goodbye Allison and Diana. Thank you for what you have done for all of us in our West Sussex Mind family – for people who use our services, our volunteers, staff and our Board but also thank you for what you have contributed over man,y many years to championing people, communities and social care.

You will both be missed!!

By Katie Glover, West Sussex Mind Chief Executive Officer