Stockport Council learning disabilities support workers start work together and retire on same day 40 years later

When 16-year-olds Kathryn Smith and Fiona Fisher both started a Youth Training Scheme (YTS) together on the same day in 1983, earning the princely sum of £25 a week and bus fare -

Stockport Council learning disabilities support workers start work together and retire on same day 40 years later

Fiona Fisher and Kathryn Smith with service users
...Culture Club’s Karma Chameleon was riding high on the radio airwaves, comedy Blackadder was first airing on television and the third movie in the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi, was the must watch film at the cinema.

Now, almost 40 years later, the two support workers, who work for the NHS and are managed by Stockport Council, who care for adults at the Learning Disability Resource Centre, on Owens Farm Drive in Offerton, have decided the time is right to bow out of full-time employment and take early retirement together on the same day.

Their career training included stints at nurseries, schools and looking after the elderly and Kathryn said: “I came to Offerton House, as it was known then, initially as my voluntary placement and at 18 was then offered a paid job and I have never left.”

Meanwhile, after her YTS Fiona, who is married to Andrew and has two sons – Joe, 28, and Sam, 22, enrolled on a college course. She then worked at Treetops hospital in Marple and provided respite care to those with learning disabilities before the pals, both now 55, were reunited in 1990 when she began working at the centre.

Kathryn, who is married to Stuart and has two daughters – Aisha, 26, and Phoebe, 25 said: "Over the years we’ve done everything together. There have been our weddings, having our children, being godparents to each other’s children, supported each other when our parents were poorly and later passed away and now, we are retiring - we have done it all together."

However, while the friends are now planning a well-earned sunshine holiday together and are looking forward to becoming ‘ladies who lunch’, they can’t bear the thought of leaving the service users altogether and plan to continue doing shift work at the day centre.

Fiona, who lives in Hazel Grove, said: "I don’t think we could break away completely. The best thing about our jobs is the service users at the centre and they have been so emotional since finding out we are retiring, and the staff that we work with are just fabulous. We come in in the morning and we are like minor celebrities, everybody is always pleased to see us. Obviously, everything is not always perfect, but we help them through their tough times too. It’s been a privilege being part of their lives."

Kathryn, who lives in Bredbury, said: "There’s no other job like it. We go into and leave work in a good mood. The service users will just come out with a song, or we’ll have a little dance with people. We help them with literacy, numeracy or cooking, everything really to help them move into living independently. Every day is different."

To mark their retirement on Friday 13 January 2023, the duo enjoyed a party at the day centre with service users, followed by a send-off with colleagues at a local pub.

Councillor Keith Holloway, Cabinet member for Health and Adult Social Care at Stockport Council, said: "Thank you to Kathryn and Fiona for their years of dedicated service and support for those with learning disabilities in the borough. It is such an important and invaluable job that they have done. Both ladies will be missed by everyone, not only those who attend but also the staff who have had the pleasure to work alongside them and I know that everyone wishes them a happy retirement."