Sandra Miles decided not to retire when she heard about the opportunities at the Independent Living Fund Scotland. Their ethos and their flexibility have meant she has been able to continue working despite various caring responsibilities.
Sandra Miles could have retired when the national Independent Living Fund closed down in 2015, but the ILF Scotland was opening, an employer that cares for carers, and it seemed so progressive and interesting that she joined and hasn’t looked back. The organisation’s flexibility and caring approach have been a big factor in her decision to keep working past the statutory retirement age.
Sandra had worked for the national ILF since 1988. A registered social worker, she was attracted to the ILF because it offered part time work from home which suited her when she had very young children. “It was a really good organisation to be part of because of its vision,” she says.
When the national ILF closed in 2015 Sandra was 64. The ILF Scotland was opening and what it offered was so exciting that she decided to stay on, just for a year initially. That was five years ago.
When she was at the national ILF Sandra was self employed, but it was soon clear that at ILF Scotland she could have the same flexibility and all the benefits of being employed. At ILF Scotland she is also more involved in regular training sessions and decision-making processes. “It’s exciting. They are doing what they say they are doing, with their employees and with their clients, involving them in decision-making. It’s not just lip service,” she says.
Sandra has stayed on at ILF Scotland partly because of the nature of the job and partly because of its flexibility, which has enabled her to do a number of caring roles. Her mum had been living near her and had become increasingly disabled, having to go into residential care. When she started at ILF Scotland, Sandra was able to visit her mum every day and maintain the contact she had had with her before because she was working from home and flexibly. Her mother died in November 2015. “Those few months were very precious and important to me,” she says. At the same time Sandra’s daughter was recovering from a severe bout of ME and needed to be taken to lots of hospital appointments to help her get back on her feet again. Again, working flexibly and part time was invaluable.
After her mum died, Sandra’s mother-in-law became unwell. She lived in Lancashire with Sandra’s brother-in-law who has mild learning disabilities. Sandra and her husband would make the 250-mile trip from Scotland regularly until her mother-in-law died in 2016. Her brother-in-law then needed an operation. Her very supportive line manager Heather allowed her carer’s leave to be there for him and bring him home so he could recover. She also allowed her to flex her hours so she could build up time off in lieu.
When her husband became ill and was unable to drive for six months, Sandra’s flexible hours meant she could drive him around. “If I had had an ordinary job I could not have done this,” says Sandra, who also works around grandparenting duties.
She says working through all of these family stresses has been “like therapy”. “It is great to get out and meet the people we work with,” says Sandra. “Some of the people I meet are amazing and that puts everything into perspective. They may have severe disabilities and their carers have often had to fight against all the odds. They are so inspiring. Work also helps me to feel valued. So many carers don’t feel valued when they are the people gluing everything together. The whole system would collapse without carers.”
She adds that she thinks the experience she has as a carer and in her life generally have been valuable for her work at ILF Scotland. “It helps me to empathise with the people I am working with. And because of how I am treated at ILF Scotland I feel very inspired to do all I can for them.”