Margaret, her 24-year legacy and retirement...

The year is 1997, lip liner, chokers and grunge are all the range but in the town of Wallington, Margaret Eaton was embarking on a 24-year career of putting people at the heart of everything she does. In the late 90s, services for individuals with learning disabilities were not as person-centred as they are today, quality of life was not the main focus of disability care. Walsingham Support, however, had been leading the charge as a learning disability provider by establishing residential and supported living homes. Individuals with learning disabilities transitioned from living their lives in long stay hospitals to living in their own homes.

Over Margaret’s 24 years at Walsingham Support, she has supported individuals in residential living, supported living and floating support. Margaret’s hard work and care has woven its way into the lives of communities, staff teams and the individuals she has supported. Prior to her time at Walsingham Support, Margaret worked within administration for the NHS for 22 years, her move towards social care could be described as serendipitous. Following a church service, Margaret saw a poster advertising for help with a dance class hosted for adults with learning disabilities, in her late 30s and looking for a change in role, Margaret went along and enjoyed it so much, she decided to change career permanently.

In October 1996, Margaret joined the team in the Sutton, two individuals supported there also attended the dance classes which made it only seem as though it was meant to be. “It was so refreshing to work in a team, and my role as a support worker involved so much more than any of my previous roles”, Margaret said brightly. “I received excellent training throughout my 24 years which really taught me the ability to communicate and look at individuals as a person and be adaptable, with COVID, of course that training became slightly more enhanced as PPE and infection control became top priority”, she continues, “Although as an organisation we’ve been relatively lucky, COVID has been obviously difficult, especially so having lost a colleague, I miss her dreadfully”

Margaret openly speaks about how her last year in social care has been one of the most difficult but her admiration for her team and the sector never waivers, an admiration which is wholly reciprocated, “She’s just one of those ‘can do’ people, we have no idea what we’ll do without her”, her colleague Julie said when asked of Margaret’s retirement. Margaret gracefully believes it’s “time to hand over the baton”, she does however feel “it’s so lovely to know I’ll be missed”. Margaret has worked within the social care sector for over two decades, she has seen the vast changes within the sector including a further understanding of Autism, of those individuals with learning disabilities who in their older years go on to develop dementia and of the importance of addressing mental health issues in those supported as a key part of their care, which has increased the quality of care provided to individuals with learning disabilities.

In her retirement Margaret intends on taking it easy, traveling when guidelines permit (Fingers crossed for a sunny trip to Dorset in September) but also volunteering at a dementia café when things begin to open up again, “I lost my mother to dementia, so anything that makes it easier for those with dementia is well worth pursuing”, she says.

Margaret finishes the interview saying, “I have fantastically enjoyed working for Walsingham Support, I’ve met fantastic people, both staff and people we support, everyone is very dedicated to what they do and it’s such a supportive environment”. 

At Walsingham Support, Margaret has been a beloved staff member for 24 out of our 35 years. We are so grateful for her dedication and care over the years and wish her the very best in her retirement.