We have a system for new staff. They are interviewed and police checked and, once we know they have a clear record, they are sent out on shadow shifts. This involves going out with a Team Leader and meeting the customers to learn the routines. If somebody is new to the caring role they may need a full week of shifts, meeting each of the clients they will be visiting at least two or three times. Occasionally somebody is particularly nervous and they need an extra week of shadows before theTeam leader is confident they are safe to do the job alone.
Clare is twenty, a dumpy unprepossessing girl who seems young for her age. She seems keen to try the job out although she has no care experience and I put her with a local team to learn the ropes. Jane, the Team Leader, tries hard with her, she is a sweet girl and turns up on time but she has no instinct for the work. Jane comes back to me after a fortnight and says she doubts Clare will make the grade. She has to be told to do every little thing, nothing happens on her own initiative, left to her own devices she just stands staring into space. When Jane tells her to wash somebody and stands back to let her do the job, Clare dabs ineffectually at the customer's arm until she is told to get on with it, then she scrubs them so hard Jane has to intervene while the customer still has skin left. There is more. Jane is worried about the things Clare has told her about her life. She lives with her boyfriend and her year old baby but it seems an odd relationship. Clare's partner looks after the baby and Clare seems to have no say in anything. If Jane drops her at home and the boyfriend is out, Clare is locked out, she has no keys to the flat. The boyfriend rings her sometimes while she is working and she is immediately a gibbering wreck, agreeing with everything he says and making notes of the errands he wants her to do before she returns home.
There is no proifit in having a supernumerary member of staff. We are paying them to observe, to be additional to the carer who is actually doing the work. However, I overrule Jane and give Clare a further two weeks shadowing. The kid needs the break and instinct tells me that she is in for big trouble if she has to go home and tell the boyfriend she has lost her job. Clare doesn't improve, she seems to have no concept of what the job involves and at the end of four weeks my lovely blunt Jane says "Caroline, if you put that girl out on her own, on your own head be it, I wouldn't trust her to water a plant, much less to give someone vital medication." I still prevaricate, I send Clare out on a different team to get a second opinion. The second opinion bears Jane out, Clare is just never going to make the grade.
I had Clare in this morning and told her that we would not be continuing with her probationary period. She took the news like a whipped dog, barely responding and saying "thank you" as she left my office clutching an incongruous "Hello Kitty" handbag and looking as though she had no idea what was going on. I felt horribly guilty, as if I had done her a huge disservice in giving her a chance in the first place.
I wandered into reception after Clare left and was standing checking my post when the door was slammed open so hard it bounced back from the wall, barely missing my head. A man who resembled a warthog with tattoos hurled himself into the room and halted about six inches from me "Have you just sacked my effin' missus?" he bellowed. I was so taken aback I didn't understand what he had said at first and asked him to repeat himself. He did, even more loudly, "Are you the effing bitch who just sacked my effing missus??" The room shrank, there were other people there but I was only aware of his face, inches from mine, twisted in hideous rage. I said as calmly as I could "I'm not discussing this with you, I don't employ you and I have no intention of speaking to you" It was all over as fast as it had begun. He punched the screen by the reception desk, sending it flying across the room and slammed out into the showroom, kicking displays all the way to the door while he called me a selection of names that would make a docker blush. I leaned out of the reception door in time to see him hurtle out of the car park in his car, girlfriend beside him and, as I found out later from a carer who was just getting out of her car, with the baby in the back seat.
The incident was rehashed once we had all recovered our equilibrium and it was generally concluded that I had handled it with amazing calm. Actually, I was so shocked I dealt with it on autopilot. I listened as the day wore on and, in the way of offices everywhere, it became a wryly funny incident, a piece of office folk lore in the making and all the time I listened all I could see was Clare's white face as that car screeched out of the car park. It was a few frightening moments in my day....I hope that's all it was for Clare. I hope it was, but I am sure it wasn't.
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