Meet the manager interview – Foxley Lane and Mayfield Road – Rebecca Crawford

Meet the manager interview – Foxley Lane and Mayfield Road – Rebecca Crawford

Rebecca looking at the camera.

Our Service Manager at Foxley Lane and Mayfield Road, both in South London, Rebecca Crawford, talked to us about her passion for being a learning disabilities nurse, her progression up to being a service manager, the journey Foxley Lane has been on and where she wants to get Mayfield Road to, in a wide-ranging and fascinating discussion. 

At Mayfield Road, we provide support to up to twelve adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) in a residential care setting. And at Foxley Lane, we provide guidance and support for up to eight adults with epilepsy, learning disabilities and/or physical disabilities.

Can you tell us a bit about your career background and experience? 

When I was nineteen, I decided I wanted to go and do something that felt like it mattered. So, I went to university in Leeds to study to be a learning disabilities nurse completely on a whim. I hadn’t worked in it before; it was just an area I found interesting. And absolutely fell in love with it from day one. It felt like my calling. 

Through my career, I’ve worked in various learning disability services. I’ve worked in hospitals including autism specialist services, challenging behaviour units, secure services.  I then spent a long time working in the independent sector, so really focusing on management skills and looking at giving the best possible care to people and going above and beyond to meet their individual needs, which is important to me now with our residents.

I worked for adolescents for a while and did a lot of training and risk management, communication and led on a lot of projects around autism and learning disabilities. Then when I was looking for a new role, I was asked by the Operations Director at the time if I’d be interested in covering a service as interim manager for a few weeks while they waited for the substantive manager. Doing this, I absolutely fell in love with learning disability services again.

The key moment I remember realising this was what I wanted to go back to working in long-term was helping a resident to make her own cup of tea. Seeing how excited she was to show off to the staff that she could press the button for the water that she could pour the milk in, that she could stir it, that she could do the sugar and actually make her own drink. That’s amazing. Allowing someone to take back a little tiny, tiny little bit of control of their life. 

What have you achieved so far at Foxley Lane and what is your vision for Mayfield Road?

When I first started at Foxley Lane there had been a turnover of managers, so one of the first things I did was build relationships with the families, the residents, and the staff. It was important for me to be a part of day-to-day things, looking at the basics, engaging with the commissioners and saying “what do you think the problems are? How can we fix them and what do you think is great that we can build on?”. Because I’m a big believer that we don’t just learn from our mistakes, we learn from what we do well. I think that really helps keep up staff morale as well. For example, something we’ve been doing is we get every key worker to plan an outing for their resident every month. It’s their time to go out and do whatever their resident likes the most with them in dedicated on-to-one time. 

Some residents have gone into central London to see the Shard and have a Five Guys burger. We’ve had residents whose favourite thing to do is go to the shop or have a pamper session, so we do that with them and it’s great!

Building on all that and making sure the quality of care we give is good enough that we can start putting those extras in place where it’s personalised to everyone and where we don’t just have an activity plan which is meaningless to them and ticks a box.

What we do is we have community meetings where we’ll put on clips of films, and we see how residents respond to the clips and then we make a list of their favourite films, and we pick what to watch like that. We want to avoid what a colleague once called “death by Disney”, where services just pop on a Disney film for residents to watch without taking time to find out what they actually like — Mamma Mia is a firm favourite at Foxley.

We also do things like having a healthy eating theme. We get all the residents to feel different fruits, smell them and eat them and see what they like so that we can make smoothies and things like that. They absolutely love it and so do the staff!

Since I got here in December, the team have reviewed all the care plans based on what residents like to do, so that what our families and our residents see is they are getting good continuous care that meets their needs and their preferences. And on top of that, we’re helping them have new experiences. Even if that’s just trying new fruit, for some residents, that can be a big experience.  

Mayfield Road has also had a lot of different managers and a lot of change. I think with me being a learning disabilities nurse, my vision for it is getting it to a point where we’ve got all the basics in place, and now we’re starting to put in those extra things. For example, we had a resident’s birthday recently and it was making sure he chose what we ate. He wanted pizza and cake and he got pizza and cake. 

We’ve also been talking to the residents about the bank holiday. Some of them we will show pictures of options, which gets the team engaged and excited about it too. As a result of that, on Bank Holiday Monday, we had a BBQ with all of the residents’ favourite food. Including lots of healthy options. Not just all sausages and burgers because healthy options are really important to our residents as they’ve got a lot of comorbid health conditions.

And that’s my goal for both services that we get, everything running smoothly so we can have those little glimmers of great things for our residents.

What’s the most enjoyable thing about your role?

I love it. I love working with the residents. I love the team I work with.

There’s nothing better than putting something new in place and seeing it pay off so much. Initially I was telling staff what to do and saying try this activity, try that activity and the best moment is when staff then take ownership of things. It’s already happened at Foxley and we’re now starting to see it at Mayfield too. I had a day off recently; I came back, and the staff were so excited to show me the pictures of the residents having a great day.

Things are starting to be carried forward to improve our residents’ lives as much as possible and that’s brilliant.

Where does your passion for what you do come from?

For me it’s 100% about the services I manage and giving the staff the skills they need to be confident in these, which in turn, gives every resident that little moment of joy and it can be something as tiny as finding out what their favourite song is and singing it with them.

Seeing residents who can’t talk to you but who love music, clapping, singing and vocalising along. It makes family members happy to see their loved ones living a great life in tiny ways.

But also, there’s the other big stuff like improving the activities we have. Something we did recently at Foxley Lane is a family suggested we might enjoy having animals come to visit the resident. We didn’t know how they would respond.

We brought in a very, very small miniature dachshund, who I know previously had been doing visits at hospitals with adolescents, so we knew she was very well behaved. We got all the families to consent. There were these brilliant moments where you just saw residents who might normally be really distressed, suddenly just be really calm engaging with this dog. The families were so happy, we saw sides of residents we’ve never seen before and that’s really lovely. 

Now that I’ve started working at Mayfield as well, that’s something I want to do there — having those little brilliant moments. We’ve started doing more things like garden games, more outings, baking with residents. I like it because there’s big mixture of different needs and different staff and different residents. You’ve really got the opportunity to do something special.

What are the team like at both services?

My teams are great, so I’m lucky at both services. There is a deputy at each service and two senior support workers, which means that day-to-day there are skilled management staff, who are actively engaged in the service, who know the residents well, allowing me to focus on our next improvement. 

The teams are just so passionate. Even the newer staff, as they’ve got to know me as I’ve settled in, they get so excited to tell me about the good stuff they’ve done and to shout about this. They know their residents so well, and also they’re not afraid to challenge me if they think I’m wrong, which I think is the sign of a good team.

There’s no hierarchy about who can tell who they’re wrong. It’s very much we’re all there for the residents, not for our own egos or our own careers.

What’s your favourite thing to do with residents?

Oh, that’s a good question. The music groups at Foxley are great. We put on our favourite songs. The residents get instruments out, we bang drums, we play bells, and we sing along, and you see people really come out with their shells.

At Mayfield, because we’ve got a bit of a different resident group, I really love the times when you sit down with a resident who struggles to engage and when you can just sit with them for an hour and talk about the things that interest them and just get that engagement where it’s not forced, where they’ve developed to be comfortable with me, where they’re engaging and where you can see they feel secure in their environments. I love it all really.

What do you love to do in you spare time?

I’m a cat mum. I have two lovely cats. I love cooking. I love baking. I’m a big fan of comedy. My friends and I have recently got into board games very much.

But then also a little treat for me. I have signed up for a subscription to have a massage once a month as a treat. So that’s my therapy — two cats, a massage and baking.