Celebrate Learn

Best of the Best…Kelly Byer, Peabody

Painting a positive picture of social care 

Each month we feature an Award-Winning finalist; inspirational individual or team who are really are The Best of the Best in social care.  This month we feature Kell Byer, a support worker at London’s Peabody whose artistic flair has influenced his creative approach to supporting his service users.

Kell Byer

Kell never imagined he would be working in social care. After finishing his Business Studies Degree in 2007 his focus was on finding a job in which to use his newly acquired skills.

Unfortunately, this coincided with the financial crisis and finding a job proved a lot more difficult than he had imagined. During this time Kell continued to paint, a hobby he had always enjoyed, and which helped him relax. Eventually his paintings covered every wall in the flat he lived in with his Mum, so he gave some away to family and friends before seeing an advert for market stalls in Acton Market.

A few weeks later Kell was showcasing his artwork on his own stall.  On realising that pictures with a local connection seemed popular he started creating new works depicting local landmarks which were quickly snapped up by the locals, including a school where he was invited to present the painting in assembly, and the nearby church where we has asked to conduct an arts session.

Eventually Kell found a job working for Ealing Council but he wanted to continue his creative pursuits so registered as a volunteer at a local young adult’s centre, continuing to provide holistic art sessions for over a year.

When Kell moved from his job he had to put his volunteering on hold due to his longer commute, but these sessions had really inspired him to work with more vulnerable people.

Kell’s new role was as a youth support worker in supported housing in Notting Hill. The role was centred on helping young people learn the skills to manage a tenancy and live independently but Kell was also able to run art workshops as part of his role, even exhibiting their work. He found this really helped his customers; providing a safe and relaxing space for people to explore their feelings and emotions through the creative arts.

Kell then found a role with working with young people in residential care. Many of these young people had to overcome challenging in their lives and needed stability, support and safety. The more he worked there, the more he became involved in all aspects of care and support, working closely with the young people building trust, confidence and teaching new skills. He then found another role through an agency working in the Peabody scheme at Ivydale Road in Nunhead, working with residents with learning disabilities.

He had never worked with this customer group before and was a little nervous but it proved to be a turning point for Kell; “Working in this area has, at times, been the most challenging but at the same time most rewarding work I had ever done.”

Despite making the decision to undertake a course in electrical installations, support work had such a profound effect on him that he began to question his career move; “I felt so pleased that I was invited to work here, the residents were so warm and welcoming it immediately made me feel at home.”

I came to realise that helping people reach their potential is what I enjoy the most. I regularly try to think up a range of different creative sessions that the residents would enjoy like t-shirt printing, mug painting and murals, and am always decorating the walls of the scheme with photos and paintings. There are so many creative people at Ivydale Road which means I’m never short of inspiration and they have taught me so much.

“But I feel that I am only giving back what they have given me; is joy and happiness.”

Edel Harris





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