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‘I see support workers as role models,’ says Christina Collinson-Knapp, a Lifeways Scheme Manager for Tyne and Wear

For Christina Collinson-Knapp, caring for others started when she was very young.

“I was a young carer when I was a teenager and cared for my mother when she was experiencing relapses with her own mental health,” recalls Christina.

“Doing this spurred me on to want to support people as a career.”

Today, Christina’s a scheme manager in Tyne and Wear county, where she supports adults who live at Bluebell Court and Emery Court. The two Lifeways supported living services are for individuals who live with learning disabilities, autism, acquired brain injuries and other needs.

But some time back, Christina’s road to her role proved to be bumpy at times.

“I was homeless for a period of time and lived in supported housing,” she remembers.

New courage

While living in supported housing, Christina decided to make a big change.

“The staff there were fantastic, I saw them as role models. They actually gave me the courage to be able to come out as gay.”

Inspired by her support workers, Christina says she “knew I wanted to be a support worker myself, even if I could just make a difference to one person.”

Christina decided to become a support worker, and got a job with another provider, working with individuals who had deeply complex physical needs and severe learning disabilities.

“It was a very rewarding job,” Christina says.

“However, I wanted to experience working with individuals who had mental health difficulties as this has always fascinated me, and is a field I have always wanted to develop in.”

She then started a role with Lifeways as a support worker, at a service in Blyth, Northumberland.

Working up

Over a period of six years, Christina worked her way up to service manager. She then completed her degree in Health and Social Care during the pandemic.

Christina keeps her past experiences close.

“I always like to think back to when I needed help and support and I was always treated with respect, listened to and treated as an equal,” she says.

“Having hard working support workers that care and are passionate about what they do makes a good service,” adds Christina.

“Listening to others, being respectful and treating everyone equally also helps with this.”

“The work I do would not be possible if it was not for the fantastic support from my Area Manager Nikki Noble and the support of my fellow managers in the Tyne and Wear area.”

About Lifeways:

Lifeways is the UK’s largest team of support professionals who support almost 5,000 adults in the community across the England, Scotland and Wales.

Lifeways’ extensive experience and national reach mean we deliver extraordinary support to adults, enabling them to live fulfilling and independent lives.

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