Carol Hutchison, Coordinator of our James Bank services, recently celebrated 20 years’ service with Kingdom.
We caught up with her as she reflected on her career – and revealed her favourite film.
You had a varied career before you joined Kingdom. Can you tell us about your previous work experience and how this has helped you in your current role?
I always worked with the public – in pubs, and retail management – then when I turned 40, I decided I was going to do something different. My kids were grown up, so I applied for a post as a Support Worker in a residential setting for adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems.
I found my vocation in life, so decided to go to college to get qualifications to make a career from it.
What made you join Kingdom? All these years later, do you think you made the right decision?
After graduating, I applied for a few jobs in senior positions and, fortunately, was offered two. One of those was with Kingdom Housing Association. Initially, I chose the other provider, but I didn’t have a start date until January 2003, while I could join Kingdom in November 2002. So I thought I would start with Kingdom, gain some experience, then move on.
Here I am, 20 years later, with no regrets. I most definitely made the right decision to stay with Kingdom. The main reason I stayed was the diversity of experience on offer and the prospect of promotion within the organisation.
Much of your work has been with individuals who’ve been affected by homelessness. How do we get support right for people who are dealing with this challenge?
In order to get the support right, our staff have to have the right attributes – a high level of empathy, tolerance and a good sense of humour. If staff have these qualities, and the right approach, it makes it easier for the individuals we support to engage with them. The people we assist are able to be open, honest and transparent, which helps build good relationships and helps them address their situations.
It’s equally important for us to have good relationships with external agencies, as our work isn’t just about helping people with housing issues. A number of other factors contribute to homelessness.
You are passionate about your work. What motivates you, and what’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I love my job, the people I work with, and the experience I have gained throughout the years from every individual we support. I thrive on everyday challenges and not knowing what the day will bring. Most days, when I leave work, I can say I have learned something new.
When someone comes to stay at James Bank, they might describe their lifestyle as chaotic. They may feel no hope, wonder what’s the point, and have given up on themselves. We tell them that we won’t give up and encourage them to put their energy into making changes, not beating themselves up. Sadly, there are often plenty of people out there who will do that for them.
It is so rewarding when you see people start to take pride in themselves again, think positive, focus on building a future – and then, move on.
You’ve worked with a great many individuals over the years – at James Bank, and beyond – and you are recognised wherever you go. What’s that like?
It’s always good to meet people who have moved on – some who have done well, and others who haven’t – and catch up with them. I have to say, though, that I sometimes duck and dive when I am on a day or night out.
What’s your favourite film, and why?
I just love Christmas films and my favourite is It’s a Wonderful Life, probably because I believe everyone has a guardian angel.
Can you share something about you that might surprise your colleagues?
I’m an open book, so I cannot think of anything that would surprise my colleagues.
With our partners at Fife Council, we are developing new ways to support individuals affected by homelessness. What’s working well, and what could we do differently or better?
I think Fife Council’s strategy works well for the majority of people who are experiencing homelessness. However, for the minority who have chaotic lifestyles, there are areas for improvement. The solution is not just down to housing – we need to remove barriers to health services and welfare benefits.
I am optimistic that our new models of support – in Inverkeithing and Rosyth – will help us overcome those barriers.
Congratulations to Carol on achieving 20 years’ service and special thanks for the difference she has made to so many lives over that time.