With the help of Durham County Council’s Care Academy Owen Stanley has found a job he loves – and he’s even been inspired to bring Elvis back to life! PETER BARRON explains...

AS a man who has always enjoyed putting smiles on people’s faces, Owen Stanley is proving a bit of a hit in his new profession as a care worker.

He loves seeing the joy his role can bring – and it’s even inspired him to revive his former life as a semi-professional Elvis Presley and Shakin’ Stevens impersonator.

“It’s seeing those smiles – that’s what I love,” says Owen, who found his way into care with the support of the County Durham Care Academy which was set up four years ago by Durham County Council to help independent care providers develop a valued and skilled workforce.

Owen, 57, has taken a circuitous route into the care sector, but now he’s arrived, he describes it as one of the best decisions he’s ever taken.

Born in Batley, West Yorkshire, he got a taste of what it’s like to be a carer in his younger days when his mother was left wheelchair-bound after a fall. His dad had to give up his job as a long-distance driver to care for her, and Owen saw the impact it had on family life.

Owen’s first job was stacking shelves in Tesco, from where he progressed into junior management. That was followed by a move to bed manufacturer, Silentnight, which led to a senior management position.

When his mum died in 2009, Owen used the bit of money she’d left him to buy the costumes and equipment he needed to pursue his dream of singing rock and roll on stage. He proved such a hit as Batley’s versions of Elvis and Shaky that he raised £20,000 for charities.

Then, after 15 years at Silentnight, he was made redundant, and moved with his wife and two sons to Withernsea, realising an ambition to live by the coast.

He found work as a security manager for Centrica before the family uprooted to the North-East – settling in Crook – when his son got a university place in Newcastle.

When the time came to return to work, after having taken two years out to renovate the house, his wife, Ellie, suggested he’d make a good care worker.

As a care worker in an assisted living scheme in Spennymoor, Ellie sensed that her husband’s rapport with people, and his compassionate nature, would fit well in the care sector.

“It wasn’t something I’d thought about, and the only experience I had was helping to care for my mum, along with lots of life experience,” Owen recalls. “But I thought I’d give it a go and applied for jobs with care companies.”

When those direct applications didn’t lead to anything, Owen turned to the County Durham Care Academy for a helping hand.

“I was getting a bit frustrated, but the place where my wife worked used the Care Academy to help with its recruitment, so I applied to them online,” he explains.

Owen was fast-tracked onto a free six-week introductory course in adult social care.

Soon after he completed his training, a position came up as a peripatetic care worker, based at Consett’s Maple Court Extra Care facility which is run by the county council.

“I couldn’t believe how quick and easy it was, with Care Academy supporting me every step,” says Owen. “The course gave me a solid grounding and the manager at Maple Court took a chance on me.”

The Northern Echo: After having had various jobs and a period of not working, Owen’s wife persuaded him to consider being a care worker... and he’s never looked backAfter having had various jobs and a period of not working, Owen’s wife persuaded him to consider being a care worker... and he’s never looked back (Image: County Durham Care Academy)

Though based at Maple Court, Owen worked around County Durham, looking after people living independently in extra care schemes.

Much as he enjoyed that role, he couldn’t resist applying when another position came up, much closer to home, at Southfield Lodge, in Crook, and he’s been based there since October 2021.

He works 18.5 hours a week, with various shifts planned around a six-week rota. His duties are focused on helping people who live in their own apartments within the facility. They include personal care, making meals, medication support, helping residents with showering and going to the toilet, as well as getting in and out of chairs and up the stairs.

“It gives me so much job satisfaction. I love being part of a team of care workers who all want to do their best for those in their care,” he says.

“There’s nothing better than seeing smiles on the residents’ faces because they appreciate what you’ve done.”

On top of his daily tasks,  Owen enjoys spending time and chatting with residents.

“They may not have family of their own, and it gives you a nice warm feeling inside to know you’ve made their day.”

Owen is quick to acknowledge the importance of the Care Academy in proving to be “the best route into the care sector”.

“The Care Academy was critical in getting me started. Communication is one of their key strengths, always keeping in touch and checking how things are going,” he says.

“Contacting the Care Academy was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life because it was the right direction for me at this time of my life, and I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.

“I’d recommend it to anyone considering a career change, and I’d be happy to talk to anyone thinking about it.”

With the Care Academy’s help Owen has now taken his Level 2 diploma to broaden his skillset and is awaiting the results.

In the meantime, he’s dusted off his Elvis and Shaky costumes, after a ten-year gap, and has been performing shows to mark the 20th anniversary of the Extra Care schemes in County Durham. 

Durham County Council runs seven Extra Care facilities across the county consisting of self-contained apartments with shared lounges and gardens, hair and beauty salons and the option of extra on-site care services when they’re needed.

  • Find out how you could start your amazing career in care with the County Durham Care Academy. There’s free training and one-on-one support to help you make the switch to a fulfilling career in the care sector you can be passionate about – like Owen. Visit www.durham.gov.uk/careacademyrecruitment

Cllr Chris Hood, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for adult and health services, said: “It’s great to hear of yet another success story from our Care Academy. It was a case of ‘it’s now or never’ when Owen contacted the academy team, but with our staff’s advice he has been able to work towards his diploma and ultimately find jobs.

“Owen clearly gets on a treat with residents and his Elvis performances have them ‘all shook up’ from what I’ve heard.

“I’d encourage anyone who’s inspired by Owen’s story and might be interested in a job in care to contact the Care Academy team.”

The Northern Echo:

Owen was initially persuaded to stage a comeback for a one-off show at Sycamore Lodge, in Spennymoor, but more shows followed. He also had a performance booked at Southfield Lodge on May 8 – his mum’s birthday.

“My favourite song to perform is probably My Way, and Suspicious Minds is another because it gets them going,” he says.

To add to the entertainment he performs with a comical pig mascot, naturally named Elvis, who wears a jumpsuit and dark glasses while singing Hound Dog!

“When I joined the care sector I never thought I’d be back to performing as Elvis and Shaky again, but it’s another way of making the residents happy – and that’s what being a care worker is all about,” he ended.