Being a working carer...

Debbie Bullock is the Wellbeing lead at Aviva. Here she tells her story about being a carer and how she’s balanced her caring responsibilities with work over the years.

My son Matty has a mitochondrial disorder, which is a genetic condition. In his early years it was thought to be allergies. It wasn’t until he was nearly five that he started having serious symptoms with continual vomiting. This resulted in multiple hospital stays, and every test imaginable.

Debbie and Matty

Back then I didn’t think of myself as a carer, just someone with a sick child, but I was lucky enough to have leaders who knew I needed to put my family first. Whether this was days and nights in hospital, or outpatient appointments for the numerous tests.

Caring and working full-time

... I was able to use paid carer’s leave for many of the hospital appointments

In 2006 Matty had a gastrostomy fitted which meant he would have supplementary feed through a tube overnight into his stomach as he was struggling to gain any weight. At this point I was working full time, but some of that was from home to fit around caring responsibilities, and I was able to use paid carer’s leave for many of the hospital appointments.

The next few years had a mixture of good and bad times. Lots of issues with school, with pain management, with not being able to gain weight, and when your child has a rare condition you spend a lot of time being an advocate for them. And yet I still didn’t really classify myself as a carer.

Support from leaders

Treating others the way they would want to be treated...

The many leaders I’ve had over the 20 years since Matty was born have supported me every time I needed to rush away from work. They probably didn’t think of it in terms of carer’s leave or policies, but doing the right thing for a colleague. Treating others the way they would want to be treated, and knowing in the long run I would pay the company back in terms of work ethic and loyalty.

Happily, since 2015 Matty’s health has been reasonably stable. As he’s grown older, he looks after himself more, but still likes me to support him at hospital appointments and clinics.

Different caring responsibilities

"I’ve worked for Aviva since I left school at sixteen."

My story is very different to someone who has daily caring responsibilities, as mine tended to be about specific times when I needed a lot of time off. But with the right leadership and support, both kinds of caring can be managed alongside a career.

I’ve worked for Aviva since I left school at sixteen.  Throughout that time they’ve supported me in my role as a carer. They had my back when I needed it - and still do.

For more information, help and advice about caring, visit https://www.carersuk.org/

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