Olujide Oyetunji, Support Time and Recovery (STaR) Worker at HPFT shares his story about the challenges of migrating to England for a better life for his family.
As a STaR Worker, Olujide is responsible for supporting care coordinators and arranging personal budgets for service users. Through a personal budget, services users are supported to live independently and achieve the outcomes stated in their care and support plan.
STaR workers provide support and give time to the service user to help their recovery. Olujide works across services and care groups as necessary in close association with the Team Leader, senior staff and other agencies, to help maximise the quality and quantity of STaR services at the Trust.
The STaR service has a big focus on recovery principles and the main aim is to provide support and give time to service users which in effect will promote their recovery.
Here is his story.
I moved from Nigeria to England seven years ago for a better life with my wife and children. They arrived five years before me, and those five years were the toughest I have experienced. I was away from my family, living alone and spent my time counting down the days until my next visit to England so that I could see them again.
I visited twice a year, but the difference between living with your family, and seeing them twice a year for a very short period of time is inexplicable. It was very very difficult and there were times when I was not even sure if we were husband and wife anymore because of the distance. I questioned whether it was worth uprooting my family and being separated from them for so long.
Back in Nigeria I had a very good job as regional head at a telecommunications company, working as a network co-ordinator. After arriving in England, I was turned down for many similar positions because I didn’t have any UK experience – something which was impossible to get without being given a chance.
My first job in England was working in an Amazon factory - a big change to what I was used to. Luckily after speaking to a good friend, he suggested I look at a career in health. I started at entry level as a health care assistant (HCA) at a Trust in London. I was grateful to be in employment but at the same time, I was frustrated being at this level and pushed myself to take on extra responsibilities and develop professionally so that I could progress up the ladder.
The role of a HCA is at the lowest bandings in the NHS, and during this time I met a lot of BME staff, including fellow migrants in the same or similar roles. Even though I found the circumstances around my career unfair, I was happy to be working and providing for my family, knowing that through hard work I would progress.
I joined HPFT last year on a one year contract and thoroughly enjoy being a STaR Worker which is a higher banding than my HCA role. The service we offer can be life changing for our service users and it’s great to be a part of their journey. I have noticed more BME staff here in the lower bandings compared to where I have worked previously however I am very happy here. The managers are really helpful and willing to help staff progress. My manager has even helped me look for extra training to allow me to move onto higher things.
Coming back to the challenging issues around race in the workplace; since taking on a fixed term job, I’ve applied for lots of jobs around Hertfordshire, both at the Trust and externally. I have attended many interviews and had a lot of rejection. When I ask for feedback, I am told that I performed well but unfortunately ‘someone’ has always been better on the day. The result is the same even when I interview for roles I know that I am 100% capable of doing and have given a strong interview.
I don’t know if this is because of my race, background or that there really was someone better. I do know that for me to get a job, I have to work 10 times harder, maybe because I am a migrant, maybe because of the colour of my skin, maybe not. It’s difficult to say with more certainty and almost impossible to find out the real reason.
I have an interview coming up - it does make you doubt yourself, your skillset, even though I know I am capable. But again I will give it my very best and be positive that it will be good enough on the day.