In the last few years, aspiring actor Michael Westlund has seen himself increasingly on the set of high-profile film or television productions, working alongside a host of stars.
But when Covid-19 put work on shows like Star Wars and All Creatures Great and Small out of bounds, the 36-year-old opted for a more down to earth alternative – working at Scarborough’s Milestone House, effectively operating as a short break service for people with learning disabilities and during last year those being discharged from hospital.
And he found the work so satisfying he has stayed on to become a regular relief staff member at the Seamer home.
His experience, stepping in when the country was engulfed in the worst health crisis in living memory, is a graphic illustration of the way North Yorkshire communities pull together in times of need.
But it is an equally compelling demonstration of the personal satisfaction people have been able to achieve through a wide range of good deeds.
Michael found himself spending increasing amounts of time working for film and television productions, appearing as a background character in hit shows like Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders and North Yorkshire’s own All Creatures.
He is also no stranger to the movie industry, recently spending three months at Pinewood Studios on Star Wars, where he appeared as a storm trooper, and closer to home on the latest Indiana Jones film, which brought Harrison Ford to the region.
However, when the entertainment industry ground to a halt, Michael found himself at a loose end and, like rock drummer Jim McDermott, opted to get involved in the care sector.
While Jim, who was more used to performing alongside stars like Kylie Minogue and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, offered his services as a care and support worker at a Skipton care home, Michael found himself drawn to Milestone House.
Milestone House normally provides respite breaks for those with learning disabilities but last year, due to the pandemic, extended its remit to accommodate people discharged from hospital.
Manager Caroline Wagstaff said the decision was made to “run it like a hotel” as some of those staying had not previously needed personal care.
So new menus were introduced to give a choice of meals, teas were served on trays with posies of flowers and newspaper runs were organised.
“We decided to make it an experience, like a treat. They could access the grounds and sit in the gardens, we facilitated Skype calls and medical appointments,” she said. “Ninety nine per cent didn’t want to leave Milestone House.”
Last autumn, Milestone House returned to its normal function and although running on a limited occupancy, is back to providing breaks which benefit both those staying and their families.
Michael found himself pitched into a wide range of tasks and thoroughly enjoyed the work.
He had been furloughed from Scarborough Spa, where he worked between acting engagements, and found Milestone House a welcome change from the hospitality industry.
“I was looking to help out and thankfully got this job,” he said. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of it, I do pretty much everything, personal care, taking people out around the village, doing activities with them. During the Euros we were making banners and are doing things for the Olympics,” he said.
Rachel Bowes, North Yorkshire’s Assistant Director of Adult Social Care, said: “Working in the care sector is a rewarding experience for many different reasons and we are grateful to those who have chosen to make a career in this area.
“North Yorkshire has many varied opportunities in the care sector and there are opportunities for colleagues to make career progress in this area.”
The County Council employs more than 1,000 care and support workers and more than 250 Covid relief workers were hired to help cope with the demands of the pandemic. Around 65 workers relief workers have stayed on longer-term.
At present, there are vacancies for the equivalent of 57 full-time staff and hundreds more across the care sector.
All North Yorkshire’s job opportunities in the care sector can be found online at Make Care Matter, with new opportunities available daily.