Climbing the ladder – one man’s mission to inspire more people into Oxfordshire’s caring profession

Chris Ingram has spent the majority of his working life caring for others.

Having worked his way up through a variety of roles in the care sector, the 52 year old is now chief executive at Oxfordshire based care provider Style Acre.

Chris is hoping to inspire others to follow in his footsteps during Professional Care Workers’ Week (18 to 22 September), supporting Oxfordshire County Council’s strategy to strengthen and develop the local care workforce.

After completing a law degree and having a brief flirtation with accountancy, Chris began his career in social care as a trainee support worker in 1994. Since then, he has climbed the professional ladder, taking on roles including support manager, area manager and director of operations at three established, not for profit, care organisations.

In 2015, he became the CEO at Style Acre – a charity that supports around 300 adults with learning disabilities and autism in Oxfordshire. The organisation offers a range of person-centred support, from 24-hour care for those with complex learning, health or physical disabilities to a few hours support each week for those who live more independently.

Style Acre is part of Oxfordshire County Council’s network of care providers, playing a pivotal role in the adult social care Oxfordshire Way vision, supporting people to live well and as independently as possible within their own communities.

For Chris, the longevity of his career in care has all been about the people. Not only the people he’s supported, but also the teams he’s worked with.

Chris said: “I joined Style Acre as chief executive in October 2015 and can honestly say it’s the best job I have ever had. It is a real privilege to work alongside such a dedicated, enthusiastic and caring group of people. It is also unbelievably rewarding to see the impact our support has on people’s lives.”

Chris is one of around 18,000 care workers in Oxfordshire, although the latest statistics suggest there are 1,800 unfilled posts in the sector locally. As part of this year’s Professional Care Workers’ Week, Chris and the council hope to raise awareness of the multitude of good career opportunities available in the caring profession.

Chris said: “There’s no single route into caring, and it is not always seen as a career. Apprenticeships offer a way to earn as you learn with on the job training and a guaranteed pay cheque. This also gives you the chance to see what positions are available and potentially progress to other roles if you wish.”

“Alternatively, there are many transferable skills that you can bring from other professions into caring – you might have experience in hospitality or food preparation for example – we’re a multi-skilled sector welcoming diversity and offering job satisfaction and career progression.”

Alongside his role at Style Acre, Chris is on the board of directors at Oxfordshire Association of Care Providers (OACP), an organisation that supports people who work in the caring sector in the county.

OACP has worked closely with the county council to develop a new website, Proud to Care Oxfordshire, aimed at bringing more people into caring positions. The resource highlights the broad range of jobs available in the care sector as well as providing a free platform for care providers to advertise any opportunities they have available.

There’s also local information on support services, funding and initiatives to help people get into work and apprenticeships, supporting their development and training.

For Chris, his career in care has given him the chance to follow his passion, helping to bring communities together.

Chris said: “I am passionate about people having the opportunity to play an active part in their community and striving to fulfil their potential in life, irrespective of their disability. It is a truly diverse career and although it may be a cliché, every day is different and every day has a purpose and a meaning.

“We all require support through life and I believe that it is important to provide that support in a way that is right for each individual and in a way that gives the person receiving the support the choice, control and dignity that they deserve. I believe Style Acre does this really well and it’s a privilege to work here, we also have a huge amount of fun!”

Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “I have been lucky enough to see first hand the difference Chris and the team at Style Acre are making to the people they support.

“Hearing how Chris has been able to develop his career in care while dedicating his life to supporting others, is an inspirational example of what’s possible in the caring profession.

“I hope more people consider following in his footsteps.”