In January 2012 Somerset Care welcomed Alyson Martin as their new Chief Executive. We caught up with Alyson for Acacia Time’s Big Interview.
I started my career in Somerset in 1983 when I took over the Manager’s position at Sunnymeade in Chard. However my career in care started almost by chance at 16 years old when I was an Assistant Manager in a small family run care home that my “in laws to be” used to own in Bristol. I soon realised that although I had not deliberately chosen to come into care work I thoroughly enjoyed the role and therefore have remained in the care sector throughout my career. I had a brief spell in children’s services when we moved up to Derbyshire in the 1970′s, but as soon as the opportunity arose I moved back into services for older people.
In 1991 I was Manager at Sunnymeade when Somerset Care was set up, it was a time of uncertainty as this type of not for profit service had not been tried before. I have to say that it was the very best decision that Somerset County Council ever took! Over the years with Somerset Care I have held a variety of responsibilities from, managing care homes, taking the lead for Quality Assurance, writing policies and running training courses, so I feel I can understand the business from all angles. I became a Director for the company in 1992 and have seen its development over the years.
2. What have been your key memories whilst working within Somerset Care?
There have been many “people” memories. Having cared for and supported many older people over the years through the opportunities and challenges they faced throughout the 20th century, I feel that my life is a richer place for having been able to play a small part in supporting them, as many of them reached the end stage of life.
I have always been a strong advocate to develop my team and take a great pleasure to see others progress and make a success of their careers. As I was preparing for my recent interview I reflected back and remembered that I had played a part in nine of my staff progressing to be Managers of care homes or community bases.
3. What challenges and responsibilities do you expect to face as Chief Executive?
I feel that I am well placed to take the helm for the company, I have spent many years in senior positions within the company and I have a strong knowledge of the services we deliver and the challenges our teams face on a daily basis. The current economic climate that the whole country faces makes providing services a difficult environment in which to operate. But I do believe the breadth of the service base as well as the wider geographical spread has positioned the company to survive and be stronger for the future.
4. How do you expect the company to change in the future?
We will need to continue to expand our services, examples include diversifying our training, continuing the end of life services and extending the innovative PETALS services for people with dementia. Support services for learning disabilities will grow and we will continue to need to update our care homes. It will be increasingly important that we maintain quality services to both those who commission our services as well as those who are private customers. As well as promoting our services we need to ensure we continue to value our staff. I recognise that we have to continue to direct our efforts towards ensuring this means financial rewards as well as the other aspects of supporting staffing and providing excellent training.
5. What are your hobbies and interests away from Somerset Care?
Frank and I have 2 sons living away from home so trying to fit in visits to see them takes up a lot of our time, as well as supporting our 3 cats, a dog and 5 ducks (sadly no eggs). Walking and bird watching is also something I enjoy when the weather is good and trying to get fitter by regular slots at the gym.