Dawn Berry - Chief Operating Officer, Eden Futures
As part of our celebration around International Women's Day, Macildowie spoke to some of the amazing women we know in the local market about their route to the top of the their profession. Dawn Berry has spent time working her way up to a leadership role in the care sector. Currently, she works as the Chief Operating Officer at Eden Futures.
Read about the challenges faced in the care sector, Dawn's experience working at a executive level and her advice for people in the early stages in their career.
Was a career in the Care sector always your dream career? Or would you have chosen a different path if given the chance?
I knew during my teenage years that I wanted to care for and support people, and at that time became involved in a charity which supported teenagers with learning disabilities – I used to support people during the summer holidays, and also at a youth club, as part of my Duke of Edinburgh Award. My first full time job was working in a pub, and I ran a couple before realising that I wanted something more fulfilling and decided to return to working with people with learning disabilities once again.
I went to work in a registered care home where I was lucky enough to support nine fantastic people who all had learning disabilities or Autism and behaviours that may challenge. That was my reintroduction into the world of care and support, nearly twenty years ago, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
You joined Eden Futures after a period of study – what appealed to you about the business?
Eden Futures was an organisation that I knew of as one that was a trail blazer in terms of making strides to move away from residential care and into supported living, offering people with learning disabilities and Autism, and later with mental health needs, the opportunity to have the support they need but in their own homes, with their own tenancies.
I knew that the values of the organisation matched my aspirations of supporting people into greater independence and supporting some of the most challenging people in the health and social care system. As Eden Futures has grown, the values that we agreed with the whole team remain the same; the team is Brave, Caring, Positive, Honest, Professional and Responsive, the same things that attracted me to the organisation in the first place.
The care sector is renowned for being a heavily female driven industry – does this create more opportunity for women to access more senior roles?
Despite there being a higher proportion of women working in caring roles than men, this is not always replicated at a more senior level, although I’m proud to say that the Executive Team at Eden Futures does reflect the number of women working in the organisation at all levels. I believe that any organisation can achieve equality through recognising the barriers that might stop someone applying and being successful for a role.
For women applying for more senior roles, those barriers can still be there regardless of whether the organisation is within the care sector, with awareness and the courage to challenge those being the key to overcoming them.
At Eden Futures we have a great record for promoting our own home-grown talent; one of our newest Executive Team members has worked previously at all levels of the organisation and she is in a great position to now mentor and lead her successors. Several members of our leadership team have found success within the organisation following a commitment from us to develop our leaders from within wherever possible, recognising that the more we can support people with their diverse lives and backgrounds, the better our team will be.
What have been your career highlights and what has driven your personal success?
My proudest moments come from seeing the achievements of the teams who work so tirelessly to make things happen for the people we support. Every day, the team at Eden Futures achieves amazing things, and sometimes they don’t realise just what a difference they are making to people’s lives. Being COO at Eden Futures is my most positive career highlight, without a doubt. The team works so hard to ensure that we always look to improve the services we can offer, and I’d say that this is the key to success in any organisation; never stop trying to make things the best that they can possibly be!
If you were giving advice to people in the early stages of their career now, what one thing would you encourage them to do to allow them to eventually reach the upper echelons of an organisation?
Working hard, being resilient, listening to others and communication are all key. Change doesn’t happen without effort, and you need to be able to make change happen through relationships and finding out how to draw the best out of your team. Encourage and build diversity in your team – and don’t be afraid to be challenged by the differences in opinion and ideas that diversity can and should bring.
What are the challenges facing your sector over the next 5 years?
Austerity measures over the past few years have challenged the sector significantly with most Local Authorities asking providers to reduce the number of hours of support to people who are very vulnerable. I don’t see this trend changing over the next 5 years, and the challenge that this presents will be about how to maintain high quality support to people without being resourced in the same way.
The rising cost of care, coupled with a competitive recruitment market, means that another challenge will undoubtedly be attracting staff with the right skills to come and work in care, and stay long enough to ensure consistency of support and quality services to those who need it.
Housing for those people with a learning disability coming out of long-term hospital stays is in short supply, as specialist provision is required if we are to support people to live in their own homes rather than in registered facilities.
Having worked in high pressure roles in Care, what do you do outside of work to help you to decompress and to relax?
Outside of work, my favourite ways to relax involve walks in the mountains with my family and two dogs, long conversations with friends whilst attempting to jog, and looking after my health with a couple of trips to the gym each week.