Budgets & Expectations

Tracy Leese, one of our regular activity coordinator columnists, talks about feeling valued, juggling a budget, and asks how other activity coordinators find the reality of their day to day job, versus their expectations of it…

How do you separate your budgets out? It can be hard to work out what you feel is most important and the best use of your funds. I’m allowed to budget for two lots of outside entertainment a month, so long as it doesn’t cost more than a combined £150. Supplies do not come out of that budget – and I imagine I am lucky in that respect. This month, we had a Lollipop ponies visit. They are a massive hit in our home and well worth the money. We also managed to drag Valentine’s Day out over two days, throwing a party and arranging an evening of dinner dates. This month, we are planning for Easter, doing memory boxes, ordering the wood for our garden and pub, and hopefully making some ground with the outside areas, ready for Spring.

There are so many things I’d like to achieve each month, but I do need to work within the budget that we have. Wouldn’t it be great if, as activities coordinators, we had a never-ending budget?

And, wouldn’t it be great if, as activities coordinators, the work we do away from the job was more widely recognised? A common lament, I am sure, from many of my colleagues.

When I came into care, being an activities coordinator was the job that I always wanted. I wanted to be able to bring light and joy to people’s lives, but I also, like many other carers, thought it would be easy. I thought that you literally had to rock up to work, play some games, make some people laugh, give them joy and make them feel worthwhile. And I wasn’t wrong, that is the job, I just had no idea about all the work that goes into that!

I did not think it took so much planning, so much time, and so many hours at home thinking of new ideas. My contracted hours are 35 a week, yet that doesn’t account for all the hours I spend after work in the evenings working, and all the hours I use on my weekend planning and creating posters.

And the financials also give me pause for thought. I can’t speak for other activities coordinators, but in the care home I work in, I’m classed as a head of department. And while all our other heads of departments are on £9+ an hour, I’m on £8.33 – and I know I’m putting in a considerable amount of extra work at home. Plus, these heads of departments, are not the first port of call when CQC come to inspect.

That said, this is not a rant about how hard done by I am. It’s merely an observation, and something that I would like to put out there, just to see how other activities coordinators fair in their homes? Where do you feel you sit on the value scale – both financial and literal?

I suppose, my point is, that we all have one of the most important roles within our homes, but we also have the most under-appreciated roles at times too. We are, mostly, a department of one, doing the job of many. It’s a role that every man and his dog think they could be doing better, but when we are not there, nobody wants to do it.

And it’s true that we all feel pressure, and we all have days where we wonder if the job is actually worth it; days where it’s too much and we literally want to cry. But, I will tell you why we don’t give up: our residents. They make it all worthwhile. If an activity changes one person’s outlook for the day or makes just one person happy, then we have won that day, we have done our job. That’s why we are there. To make their days worthwhile and to see them smile and be happy.

Tracy Leese is an activities coordinator at Wrenbury Care home, where she has worked for a year. She has nine years’ experience working in care and has a Level 3 in Adult Social Care. Prior to working in care, she gained a BA honours in Art Film and Journalism, but came to the care industry after a period of time caring for her mother while she was receiving treatment for cancer. You can read her other blogs here