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Senior Surrey project manager, Donovan talks to us about why he loves his job

Pictures above: Donovan (left), enjoying an afternoon in the garden with residents at one of our Surrey projects.

How long have you worked for Field Lane?

I started working with Field Lane in 2014, as the deputy project manager setting up a new service in Frimley. I’d previously managed services for learning disabled people but not supported-living services. Moving to Field Lane, my first role was setting up a new supported-living project, organising transitional visits for people who would be living in the new home and meeting with their parents. I was also responsible for building the individual person-centred plans for the clients who would be moving into the new project – the first in that part of Surrey. These plans are the road maps for our clients to achieve their ambitions and aspirations. I became the project manager and went on to establish a domiciliary care service, providing hands-on support for clients living in their own homes.

Two years ago, I became a senior project manager, responsible for four supported-living homes in Surrey and the domiciliary service covering the southeast area of Surrey.

What does a typical day look like?

I believe in leading by example and take a very hands-on approach to my job. As well as providing support to my team of project managers, I make a point to spending time getting to know all our clients. I think this is an important part of my job. There is an admin side to the role and many meetings, including with social workers and parents. I try to have eyes everywhere, to have a firm grasp on everything that’s happening in the projects and to know who needs extra support from me, be it a client or a member of staff. I still get to roll up my sleeves by working with our domiciliary service. I regularly visit and give hands-on care to a client who lives independently in a house with four other lads, with similar support needs. It a great and varied job – good fun too, especially those times I get to spend with our clients.

What are the main challenges you've face over the past year and a half and how have you managed them?

One of the main challenges was keeping others incentivised to be able to cope during the crisis and get on with the job of keeping our clients firmly front of mind. The biggest issue was ensuring our clients’ wellbeing and mental health was cared for. It was extremely difficult for them to understand and accept what was happening and why they couldn’t carry on as usual. I had to keep positive and ensure everyone was kept motivated. We had to find new and creative ways to stimulate our clients and replace familiar activities with new ones. Instead of going to the gym, we did online exercise sessions. In the absence of theatre excursions, we made up our own play. With no foreign travel, we had a ‘round the world’ week, where clients learnt about different countries – through, for example food and music.

We have learned some valuable lessons during lockdown, ones that we will take forward. It has forced everyone to be more creative and come up with new ideas for client activities. The use of video conferencing, eg. Zoom and Teams, has brought projects together. Although miles apart, projects at either end of the county have grown closer together with regular chats between clients and new friendships made. This also extended to friendships from the day centre services, which moved online. Instead of seeing people there once a week, clients have been able to chat to their day centre friends more often, outside of when they are doing day service activities. Communication between clients and their parents has also grown stronger, with more frequent contact. The increased use of these online facilities has brought people together.

What's the best thing about working with Field Lane?

The best thing is the caring nature of the organisation – all the way through, from top to bottom. All the managers care about the clients and are very approachable. Staff – on any level – can speak to them about anything. I have personal, first-hand experience of that care and understanding, which has been shown to me by my managers. I’m thankful for everything Field Lane has done for me. I can’t see myself working anywhere else.


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