My week: Carmen Barnes

The senior service manager at Family First is dealing with the consequences of a merger.

Caremen Barnes
Caremen Barnes

Monday: It's half-term - a wonderful time for children to recharge their batteries, but not such a wonderful time to go to Ikea. I start my week with a chaotic visit to the Swedish blue and yellow box. Family First is starting a Cooking With Confidence course for our service users and we're arranging to give everyone who takes part a starter pack, including cups, plates, saucepans and utensils. The idea is that the course will inspire the Gordon Ramsays of the future.

In the afternoon, I breathe a sigh of relief because I'm meeting funders at our unit for teenage parents, an oasis of calm compared with the madness of Ikea. Enable, which has commissioned us to set up a course for parents-to-be, is happy with our course design.

Tuesday: Mergers and takeovers are increasingly common in our sector. Since Family First became part of the LHA-ASRA group, which provides housing and regeneration for people and communities across central and southern England, we've been trying to harmonise working practices.

As anyone going through a merger will know, learning new ways of working is not always easy. One challenge is harmonising the training offered to managers. I sit on the leadership steering group and have a meeting at our head office in Leicester to hear a presentation about how we can make training consistent throughout the group. I leave feeling inspired.

Wednesday: I start the day meeting NHS managers about our mental health review, which is examining whether we can continue providing our two mental health services. We know we've got a contract until 2009, but we've been unsure what will happen after that. Today's meeting provides some clarity. It's not easy for staff when they don't know what the future holds.

Friday: After a day on annual leave, Friday stretches my brain. Our former chief executive, Ann Cartwright, who is now a management consultant, comes in to give a group of us training in networking and presenting.

When we are bidding for funding, I find that we're increasingly required to give presentations. It's important for me to develop those skills and the whole training session is really useful. I finish the week with a catch-up with Donna, the manager of the Family First day nursery. We have a chat to clarify a few issues with social services and she keeps me updated on the playful antics of the children. It sounds like half-term has been keeping people busy everywhere.

- Family First in Nottingham provides accommodation and support for young mothers, babies and the mentally ill.

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