Case Study Profile

Gateshead Council Local Government Branch


Gateshead Council’s Domiciliary care staff have seen their jobs become more complex in recent years, with the move from the traditional role of home help to being the main source of advice and support for many of the aging residents in the borough.

In most cases, the staff are delighted with this more responsible role, as it involves a range of extra duties, from writing reports and using ICT to advising and overseeing medication and ensuring that residents are able to live as independently as possible. However, the need to update their skills and knowledge was daunting for some, that is until one of their co-workers, Mary Titler, decided to become a Bridges to Learning ULR.

As Mary Titler said:

“The experience I gained in Gateshead Council as an NVQ Assessor stood me in good stead to become a ULR with UNISON and encourage my colleagues and UNISON members into learning.”

Mary has worked tirelessly over the last two years to engage as many of her colleagues in learning as possible and by engaging them in informal learning, from ICT to outward bound activities has given them the necessary skills and self-confidence to achieve the qualifications required by the Council’s NVQ Framework.

Once again, the combination of her IAG skills and Mary’s expertise in negotiating with managers for learning, aided by the small amounts of finance that the project has been able to provide through the Collective Learning Fund, has helped to prepare many people for their next career steps.

As a result, not only are there incidents of colleagues using ICT to book their own holidays, help their families to use the internet and undertake online courses in healthcare related topics but there are also now incidences of care assistants achieving internal promotion, which is a source of delight and pride for the service managers.

In one case, a senior domiciliary care worker firmly believes that if it wasn’t for her UNISON ULR she might be facing redundancy, as she is no longer able to undertake the manual duties needed for care following her recent diagnosis of cervical spondylosis. Instead, her newly-acquired ICT skills, which has become a passion too, along with her improved communication and maths skills, means that she can now be redeployed into an admin post within the authority.

Hence Mary has created a win-win situation, as she has helped both her colleague and the Council in retaining her colleague’s knowledge and supervisory skills; a practical demonstration of her commitment to helping. As she says:

I was always ambitious to get more out of learning myself and when I see the impact on people, and their self-confidence soar, I realise that I have at last found my mission as a ULR.”

“The experience I gained in Gateshead Council as an NVQ Assessor stood me in good stead to become a ULR with UNISON and encourage my colleagues and UNISON members into learning.” - Mary

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