Staff Highlight, Jane Copestake

Jane Copestake Staff Highlight Portrait

Jane, Senior Accommodation and Support Worker, Under 18's

How long have you worked for YMCA Brunel Group?

I started work for the YMCA in October 2022, which seems like yesterday to me, however, the YMCA also seems like home. I took a brief break within that time, but couldn’t resist coming back

What attracted you to the role/how did you become involved with the YMCA?

I trained as a youth worker in London, and moved to Coventry when I finished my training. I became involved in the youth clubs for YMCA Coventry and Warwickshire, and I used to do relief in supported housing. I felt connected to housing and support work, more than I did the youth clubs (who do fantastic work). When I relocated to Somerset I was keen to keep working for the YMCA and found a role at Spencer House, which was a young persons project at the time. During that time the YMCA (then Mendip YMCA) was small and initially, I struggled with feeling like some of the systems needed updating (we hand-wrote a lot of our case notes). I found a space for myself to support with digitizing things and felt that I was able to input, not just into the role I was doing with the young people, but supporting to progress in the way we do things. The organization was always open to improvements and moving forward. I loved this and the staff team were so welcoming and friendly. The YMCA for me has always been more about just the role that an individual does, and the mantra of ‘belong, contribute and thrive’ is embedded not just our client group, whether that’s children, young people or adults, but for staff too. I have not come across another organization that has that deep-seated need for everyone to feel part of something bigger, and I’m proud to be part of a movement that supports people not just in Somerset, but throughout the world.

What does a normal day at work look like for you?

In supported housing for young people, each day is different, and each hour can be different too. Young people can have you laughing from your core, or feeling like you just want to take away their pain. It is an emotional rollercoaster, but its all with a view of knowing that you can be that constant consistent adult in their lives. A usual day for me in my current role is made up of a lot of meetings, and spending time with staff members to try to grow, develop and support them. Something I wish to do more of. I have come away from the more face to face work with young people, although because I work from the projects I am surrounded by them daily. I focus more on the operation side of the under 18’s department. I could be meeting with Children’s Social Care to think through creative solutions for a young person, I could be coaching a staff member over a complex situation, I could be buying a pool table, or sneaking off to have a cup of tea with a young person.

Work can be hard – what do you do to unwind?

When people ask me where I am going on my annual leave, my usual answer is ‘to my sofa’. Young people’s supported housing can be emotionally draining, and there is a lot to be said for a good lounging session. However in reality I just love to spend time with my family, and walking my dog, Wilson, is the best wind-down time you can get.

Why do you do what you do?

I want to leave this world knowing that I have had a positive impact somewhere to someone. Everyone has trauma in their lives, and sometimes this can be a driving force to be part of a positive way forward. The young people we work with are the most vulnerable of their age group in our society, and they have so much potential and sometimes just need someone to believe in them. The more I work with the young people the more I see how much need there is for love for them. I have moved up because I want to have a bigger impact and to help to grow and support others moving into support work. This comes hand in hand with the YMCA, I work here as opposed to another organization doing similar work because I connect with the values. I want to be part of something and I feel that with the YMCA, we are more than a charity, we are a worldwide movement with more bed spaces for young people between us than any other organization.

What is the most importance piece of advice you’ve ever received? 

I find this question so hard to answer, and I don’t think its advice but it has stuck with me for many years. Sometimes the role can be hard, no one likes to see a young person evicted or leave for a negative reason, and sometimes things happen that can leave staff asking themselves could they have done more or prevented things. Those days are tough, and I refer to them as a ‘sharp end’ day. On a day I had that was possibly the lowest moment of my time at the YMCA someone said to me ‘I am so proud that we gave that young person a home for the time they were here, and they were surrounded by support workers who love and care. Thats what we need to remember, not the outcome, but the journey and time they had with us.’. I often tell staff this when they are having a ‘sharp end’ day, to remind us all that what we do everyday is to give that positivity, safety and belonging, no matter the outcome.