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I recently read a relatively negative review of Brook Street (or simply BS as it is more commonly known) recruitment agency by Lucie_S1984. After reading about her experiences I decided I should give mine in contrast.
BS are a national recruitment agency and with 55 locations across the country you can find them on most high streets. I have been working for BS Social Care on a Part-time basis while I am studying for my self-funded PhD in Newcastle Upon Tyne for just shy of two years now. On average I work about 20 hours a week, but this can very significantly from nothing one week to 35 the next.
I mentioned above that I work for the Social Care branch and therefore this review will focus specifically on this sector. However BS also recruit for other sectors particularly general admin/office work. You can chose to work as a temp like I do or the agency will help you to look for a permanent position.
The Registration Process. *****************************
To be added to their books you must initially have six months paid experience in a care related environment. However this is negotiable. BS allowed me to register with five months paid experience, two and half years voluntary experience and a degree (previously I had been turned down by another agency so I was very pleased by this).
I turned up at the office unexpected and after I was assured that I was suitable I was guided through the registration process by a friendly member of staff. Firstly I completed a lengthy but standard application form (personal info, experience, education etc) in order to start the process off.
I then applied for an up to date police check which is a requirement of all care work. BS insist that you have a check regardless of when you last had one, even if it was two weeks ago. The check will cost you £25 and must be renewed annually. Unfortunately BS will not cover this charge (some other agencies do). Be aware that depending on the time of year the checks can take along time to come through and for obvious reasons you will not be allowed to start work without one. Expect to wait around a month from application on average.
You will also require a couple of passport photos one for your file and one for an ID card which you should take with you every time you go on placement. (However, I never take mine, I don't even know where it is and I have only ever been asked for it once).
The details of two references are also required and must be received before you are able to start work.
Once you get all this sorted (which can take a while) then you are ready to start receiving shifts.
Lets get to Work. *******************
The agency ask that you let them know your availability to work each week. This way they don't have to ring around at random and they don't have to disturb you if you want time off. However there are often incidents whereby staff members fail to check the computer or communicate with each other in any way and I often get phonecalls about shifts when I am not available or when I am down to work somewhere else. This can be annoying.
Primarily I receive calls between 9-5 on a weekday offering me shifts and I usually deal with two staff members for the majority of time. There is also a national night service and they can ring pretty much anytime between 7am and 11pm (including at the weekend) which can be annoying but they only generally call if they are desperate.
The agency are pretty good at trying to get you back to the places that you like if you let them know and in addition if the placement like you they may take your details personally and contact you directly to arrange shifts.
Specifically as a care assistant I spend time with individuals (usually adults) with learning difficulties and/or mental health issues and/or physical disability. The agency also supply workers to homes for the elderly and to hospital wards but I chose not to work in these places as I have no experience in these areas. Some of the clients have only mild disabilities and will just need only general prompting and basic support while others have severe physical disability to the extend that they will need 'everything' doing for them. I see problems such as depression, Alzheimer's, seizures, obsessive-compulsive disorder and many more. I have been to over 30 places in this area and nothing phases me anymore. Primarily I work in the clients own home and thus cooking and cleaning feature highly on the agenda. Personal care is also a big part of the job. Often there isn't alot to do and I can spend hours watching crap TV or reading magazines. I always take a book with me and sometimes work from Uni although some places are unhappy about this. Day trips out also feature highly in this line of work and just general chit chat/banter with the clients.
When you work for an agency and you work in residential homes then it is a huge advantage to have a car (and an A-Z) otherwise it can be hard to get to certain places and getting home after a late shift can be problematic. I travel up to about 15 miles around Newcastle in all directions. However, I do not receive petrol costs which is another disadvantage.
Hours very enormously depending on the placement specifically. I often work an 8-4 shift but by the same token I often work a 2-10 shift. I also work one on one with a girl my age where I do 24 hour shifts including a sleep in and I often work 16 hours days which may be hell at the time but it is great for me as it gets all of my hours done in one go.
Rates of pay vary depending on the placement but typically the pay is between £5-7 for weekdays and between £7-9 for evenings and weekends. For a weekend sleep in I am usually paid £30 which is excellent and for a weekday sleep is around £10-15. Waking night shifts are also available but I decline to torture myself in this way. Time sheets must be signed by a permanent staff member after every shift if you want to be paid. The sheets should be faxed through or dropped into the office by Monday lunchtime at the lastest for all shifts the week prior to this. Payment follows four days later on the Friday. Going into the office every week could be very annoying but fortunately I have access to a fax machine.
I personally rarely go into the office as I have no need to. But I can tell you that it is small and comfortable and usually there are four members of staff there. It will depend of the type of work you want to do as to who you will speak to regularly. The staff changes quite fast which can be annoying if you are used to certain people who know where you like to work and your shift patterns. At the moment two of the office staff have recently left and things are a little muddled to say the least.
Allows flexibility and variety in the types of work you do and when you do it. I prefer to work like this although I appreciate that this may not suit everyone.
If you don't want to work for a couple of weeks no-one can do anything about it! But by the same token if you want to work double the amount you usually do then this is also fine.
You are always the new person and thus you don't have the burdens of responsibility. As I have no intention of staying in the care field then this is just fine by me.
It is embarrassing when the agency get the shift details wrong. For example I turn up for a shift at 2pm and they tell me that I was supposed to arrive at 8am. Or they sent two people to the same placement by mistake, the agency have one of our names down and the placement have the other. Such occurrences happen more frequently than they should, although the bonus in such cases is that you will still get paid even if you are sent home because it is the agency's fault!
Sometimes there isn't work available, which is very annoying.
There have been incidences of nastiness in the office. e.g. I say I am available but then refuse to cover a shift because my plans have changes or I don't like the placement in question. This pisses off the office staff and they respond by not offering shifts for the next week. Office politics, like everywhere can be problematic.
There can be resentment in amongst full time care staff because as agency staff we get paid more (often considerably more) in comparison without even considering the agency cut. Personally this doesn't bother me, after all if I really don't like a placement then I never have to go back but I have experienced some bitchiness because of this.
There are many occassions where I have been thrown in at the deep end and left in situations that I have not felt comfortable with. For example I once arrived for an overnight shift (3pm - 10am) at a new placement with three ladies. There should have been two people but they couldn't get anyone else. After a ten minute 'chat' I was left alone all that time when I clearly didn't have enough experience of the ladies personally. At times like these I feel very sorry for clients...
For further information. ************************* Check out the website at http://www.brookstreet.co.uk/ for more information and to locate your nearest branch.
Alternatively contact the head office for more information at:
Brook Street Bureau PLC Clarence House 134 Hatfield Road St Albans Hertfordshire AL1 4JB Tel: 01727 848292
Summary. *********** I have given Brook Street Social Care four stars. They lose a star as they are often unorganised and sometimes there is a distinct lack of communication between staff members in the office. They also lose out because they don't pay petrol costs or police check costs. However on the whole, BS is a good place to work and the agency have a good reputation in Newcastle although I cannot speak for elsewhere. I give it my recommendation if you are looking for temporary work along these lines.
A month sounds like a long time to wait on checks being carried out. I have never temped before. It may be something I'll look into when Caitlin gets to nursery school age, but only recently given up my full time job as Administrator to look after her. Excellently covered. Shona
angelatawn 02.11.2005 18:37
i've temped with loads of different agencies. i did register with brook street, but they weren't quick enough compared with others. great review. angela x
arnoldhenryrufus 28.10.2005 18:20
I've temped in the past, but never with brook street - lyn x