Celebrating 30 years of service at the Together Trust: Ian Riley’s story
As we begin the new year, we at the Together Trust are looking forward to many special events and occasions. One of these occasions is celebrating 30 years of service for a very special support worker at our charity.
To mark Ian Riley’s milestone, we interviewed him to find out what made him leave the engineering industry for the social care sector, even if it meant cycling 26 miles every day, how he was chosen as ‘No 17th Happiest Person in Britain” thanks to his work at the charity and what inspires him to keep working with the Trust after 30 years of service.
Do you remember when you first joined the Together Trust?
After being made redundant from my engineering role, thanks to a friend of mine who worked at the Trust back then, I first joined the organisation in May 1991 as a Relief Worker.
Back then, the Together Trust was still called the “Boys and Girls Welfare Society” (BGWS). After obtaining my permanent contract in January 1992, I started working as a Residential Social Worker in a children’s home in Wythenshawe, “Lockhart” (later changed to “Crossacres”). There, I was responsible for arranging activities for the six teenage boys who lived at the home. The home had a big garden, where I made permanent football nets, so one of our favourite activities was playing football from morning till night with the young people. This was a significant change from my previous job as a silver solderer - fabricating copper tubes into Bunsen burners!
How did you get to your current role?
After “Lockhart”, I worked as a lead worker in residential and community services in the Stockport area. I have also worked at a home in Sandbach, where I helped establish a new service and used to commute the 26 miles there by bike and, after my sleepover, cycle home again! In the past five years, I have been part of the fostering team, supporting young people and foster carers in the North West.
What does working in fostering mean?
During the lockdown, I continued my work by running support groups on Zoom. I became adept at organising quizzes, hosting game nights and checking in regularly with the young people, which was something I couldn’t have envisaged doing 30 years ago!
I am also involved in supporting our care leavers and have the privilege of taking hampers and food vouchers at Easter and Christmas or whenever the need arises. This is thanks to our wonderful fundraising team.
Did you require any training before starting your job?
The Trust has given me all the training, qualifications and support necessary to do my job, and I always tell people that if you are hard-working, there will always be opportunities.
What made you stay with the Trust despite the challenges during these 30 years?
It doesn’t feel like 30 years at all – the time has gone so quickly, and I feel like I have had many different jobs during this time- all as part of the Together Trust!
There have been challenging times, but I have been supported by my wonderful wife and two super daughters, as well as friends and colleagues.
Is there a favourite moment of yours you will never forget related to your time at the Trust?
I have many happy memories with the Trust over the last 30 years! For example, I will always remember some of the holidays to Spain, France and the various camping trips, and I hope the young people will remember them too. Whilst working at the Lerryn home, we took the six young people for a week’s holiday in Cornwall, staying in a village called… “Lerryn”!
At Salford Hub, as a Support Worker, I used to take a young man, who was non-verbal, swimming each Friday morning. We would all get changed into our swimming shorts, and then he would decide he did not want to swim. Despite this, each week we went back, it helped him build his confidence.
Moreover, I cycled the full length of Great Britain (Land’s End to John O’Groats) in 2009 and 2015 fundraising for the Trust.
This was in relation to my work with the Trust and young people. I was nominated for this by a colleague. My family continue to regularly pull my leg about this, especially when I am moaning about the lights being left on in the house.
How is the Together Trust treating their foster carers, and how does our fostering service stand out among other organisations’?
I feel our fostering service certainly stands out because we have an on-call service, where each social worker knows each of the families. Also, the foster carers actively participate in our support groups and activities. They receive training and regular supervision, which helps engage with them and support them. We also offer a fostering break for three nights in the summer. At the organised events and holidays, the foster carers have an excellent opportunity and time to meet, get to know and support each other.