News     09/04/2024

Deputy Chief Executive, Sharon Jones, celebrates 30 years!

Deputy Chief Executive, Sharon Jones, celebrates 30 years!

Congratulations to Sharon Jones, Deputy Chief Executive, for recently reaching 30 full years of service at Adferiad.

We sat down with Sharon to hear the story of her 30 years with Adferiad/Hafal, what she has learnt, and what she hopes to see in the future. Keep scrolling to read her answers!

  • How did you start your career journey with Adferiad and how did your role evolve over time?

I started on a 12-hour contract as an Administrator on the 21st of March 1994! My children were transitioning between schools, and I saw this as the perfect opportunity to return to work part-time. I quickly realised this was more than just an administrative role, it was very hands-on, and I was engaging a lot with the people who accessed the service, learning about their lives and illnesses. Within less than a month I had increased my hours to 15 hours, as there was a spark ignited within me. After around a year I was asked to open a new service in Tondu Enterprise Centre Bridgend. Although there was a sense of apprehension, I knew this was an opportunity I had to follow through and the service became a much needed and hugely successful flagship project, bringing different practitioners together and becoming a hub in the area. Most importantly, the service was run in partnership with its users, who were trained to answer phones, deal with queries, and take orders, which gave them a real sense of ownership over the success of the programme. It was so fulfilling to see people be given a real sense of purpose. From there I was asked to help manage services across South Wales and I thoroughly enjoyed learning everything about each service and those who used them. I refer to these first 10 years as my apprenticeship, as I built such a wide base of knowledge by learning from both the clients and colleagues I worked with during this time. After 12 years I became an Area Manager, although I was now based at Head Office, I was still able to maintain an element of hands-on work by going out to services and engaging with its users. This has always been such a key part of my work, and I get a real sense of pride from knowing I have played a part in someone’s journey. Following this, I became Director of Operations for Wales, another role in which I was constantly learning. We deliver such a broad range of services that managing them really helps to truly understand what each one does, who it helps, and what it needs. Finally, to my current role as Deputy Chief Executive, I have been able to maintain my passion by keeping that element of contact with service staff and users. Listening to the voice of our service users and campaigning for their needs has been my priority over the last 30 years, no matter the level of my role.

  • What has been your favourite job role?

That is a difficult one, because all my roles have been extremely fulfilling! I absolutely loved my role running the service in Bridgend and this is what truly ignited my passion; but I carry that passion with me no matter my job role, which is why I have stayed as long as I have. My career was not planned, it developed naturally because I have never lost sight of why we do what we do – we are here to make sure we do the best that we can for all the people that we support! I feel my career will come full circle and I will end pursue the thing that ignited my passion in the first place, working in close partnership with the people who access our services.

  • How have things changed since you started with Hafal?

Some things have changed for the better, like housing accommodation, but unfortunately there are also things that are worse than they were 30 years ago, for example, there are less beds available now to those who are hospitalised for their mental health than there were then. However, we do have better treatments available now which do offer better outcomes. For us as an organisation, we have come a long way. We are now delivering programmes and services that are more rounded and focus on the whole person, not just their mental health problem; taking cooccurring issues into account, which despite being a problem 30 years ago was not being addressed. Seeing how diverse our range of services has become is a real source of pride, we now deliver not just within mental health, but also a wide range of areas including drug and alcohol rehabilitation and inpatient services, treating the whole person, not the hole in the person!

  • What has been your biggest motivations during your time at Adferiad?

The biggest motivation has been the people who use our services, and making sure their voices are heard. Since my first day 30 years ago when I saw how people’s lives could be changed by the right service, I have been passionate about ensuring we use our skills to support people to become the best they can be!

  • What are some of the highlights of your time with Adferiad?

My biggest highlight is seeing service users who were in despair, despondent and without hope at the start of their journey going on to become not only paid employees, but colleagues! Experiencing both the formation of Hafal as a devolved organisation, and later the merger to form Adferiad, were also huge highlights as they were enormous turning points in how we could support people in Wales. I was delighted to represent the organisation at Buckingham Palace in 2017, it was really special to be acknowledged for our services to mental health and a privilege to be chosen to represent all the people who work day-in-day-out to support people in need! Overall, I don’t have any personal highlights, because for me the biggest sense of accomplishment comes from seeing other people coming together and supporting each other; our sports days are always a brilliant example!

  • What have been some of the biggest challenges?

It is tough when a service that you value has its funding cut and conveying to people that the service can no longer offer them what it did. It is hard not to take a personal sense of loss, although it is usually beyond our control, because it feels like you have let people down. Similarly, seeing things that need to change but not being able to change them is challenging, but if we were the type of organisation that crumbled under these challenges instead of rising to them, we would not be who we are! Overall, the biggest challenge is trying to deliver the best service that we can with the limited post of funding available! We have the ideas, the experience, and the skillset, but with many organisations chasing the same small streams of funding, it is unlikely to be any less of a challenge in the future; but we can continue to raise awareness of the impact it can have on people when funding for vital services is cut!

  • Do you have a favourite campaign?

It is so hard to choose a favourite campaign because every year I get so invested, empowered, and enthused by each one! Every campaign is important because it is something that our members and service users have told us they want us to campaign for, and I am very conscious about being their voice. It is important to ensure the messages are powerful and hard-hitting, but also that the campaign is enjoyable so that the people that we are doing it for can feel part of it! I enjoyed our Let’s Get Physical campaign and look forward to seeing this again this year; the physical theme really encourages people to get involved and come together. I have also really enjoyed the Carer’s tea party and Anti-Stigma campaigns, anything that encourages big conversations is, and will continue to be particularly important. They are all my favourites for different reasons!

  • What lessons have you learnt and what advice would you give to someone just starting their career with Adferiad?

I have learnt so much over the course of my career; most importantly: always look at the person, not the illness! I have also learnt the important of belief and not taking no for an answer! There were times where we could have been defeated, deflated, or given up, but if we did what message would that send to those we support? And, of course, be kind!

The advice I would give to someone just starting with Adferiad would be – it is what you make it! If you believe and have a passion for what we do, you can go as far as you want to go. Just stick with it and the rewards will come.

  • What are your hopes for the future?

Just because I have reached 30 years does not mean that I am ready to hang up my boots just yet! My personal aim is to continue to push the importance of working in close partnership with those who use our services. I also hope to see more timely access to all types of services for those in need, not just mental health but all the area’s where early intervention is crucial. In terms of Adferiad as an organisation, I am extremely confident that we will still be here in another 30 years; doing even better than what we are doing today!