Growing up in a small, crowded council house in the North West, I soon learned the importance of caring for others.
As well as three other siblings, my granddad lived with us because he was too unwell to care for himself. He slept in the lounge because it was the only room big enough for his hospital bed.
It gave me a huge appreciation of how being surrounded by supportive people helps when times are tough.
That belief is as important to me now as it has ever been, and remains one of the foundations that my career and my family is built upon.
My young grandson Harry is profoundly disabled and not expected to live a long life. Harry lives next door and receives overnight care, so I witness the commitment and empathy his carers provide on a daily basis.
One of his carers recently drove for four hours through the snow to ensure she was there for her nightshift. It’s that sort of dedication that makes all the difference. Life can be incredibly challenging and it’s hard to see how our family would cope without that level of support.
I know that some people aren’t able to rely upon their family or a large support network.
That’s why I am so passionate about PlaceShapers’ We Care campaign, which is launched at the CIH this month and championing the fantastic job done by so many care and support workers and other housing professionals.
Perhaps people cannot truly appreciate what carers do until they experience it themselves. Maybe that’s why they remain largely undervalued by society, but we must change that perception.
As housing associations, we show that we care about our customers and our communities in different ways.
This can be through offering money advice, helping people get a job or supporting victims of domestic violence that have become homeless.
At PlaceShapers we have lobbied hard on consultations on the future funding of supported housing to ensure the most vulnerable members of the community are protected.
If our sector isn’t one that cares, I really don’t know who else will. People can flourish with just a little bit of help. Providing a home is great, but housing associations do so much more than that. We can help people live their lives to the fullest.
From personal experience, I know just how important care and support workers are. What they do is priceless and makes a huge difference to people’s lives.
As a sector, we can protect them by ensuring they are valued as individuals and, by investing in what they do, more people will benefit from their care and compassion.