Meet Amanda Croft, SMASH Practitioner at Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust and Mayor of Driffield
Published: 04 February 2020
It’s safe to say that Amanda Croft is an extremely busy woman. Her week days are filled with the responsibilities of a hard-working SMASH practitioner, and the rest of her time she’s leading the way for change in her hometown of Driffield.
As Mayor, she undergoes a variety of tasks such as fundraising, attending event and leading the town council. All the while at the age of just 27 – she’s the youngest Mayor the town has ever had.
Last week we had the opportunity to sit and speak with Amanda, and learn a little bit more about what she does and the drive behind her ambitions. We think you’ll enjoy getting to know her just as much as we did!
When did you start working for the Trust?
A little over a year ago, I had my SMASH anniversary just before Christmas. It was wonderful; this was the best career move I’ve ever made. I was previously working in youth and family support and I just felt like the room for growth and progression wasn’t there.
When I saw the job advertisement for the role, all I could think was ‘that has my name written all over it’. So I applied, got an interview – which was a great experience, it was a full day and I was also partly interviewed by some of the children. It was extremely empowering for them and it already felt so rewarding. When I was offered the job, I’m pretty sure I cried down the phone.
Could you tell me more about your role within the Trust?
Well, SMASH work with young people in schools across the Humber and East Riding regions, so something that was immediately apparent to me was that this covered my hometown area, Driffield, and that I already had some professional connections in the schools I would be covering with SMASH. So that worked out really nicely as I was able to build upon what I already had.
If you look at an average week in my role, my work is quite flexible. Typically, you’re looking at 2 days in schools, 2 days for outreach – which includes one-on-one sessions and family outreach – and then on Fridays, I get together with the SMASH team at our base and have an administrative day. It’s a nice time to catch up with adults and co-workers to round off the week and hear all about what everyone’s been doing. I find it really important to prioritise that one day a week and enjoy the quick cup of tea in the morning before we head into our team catch up meeting and get to work.
I have to say, since starting my job with SMASH, despite it being extremely high-pressure and serious work, I do find I have a bit more work-life balance, as we work term-time being based in schools. It’s a very emotionally and physically taxing job, which means it’s always really important to know you have that half-term break coming up, not too far down the line.
What kinds of young people do you work with?
The Social Mediation and Self-Help (SMASH) programme is a group-based programme which takes referrals from schools and other parts of the early help, social care and health systems. The programme works with young people aged 10-16 years old who have difficulties with self-regulation, social interactions and emotional resilience and may be at risk of developing mental health problems in the future.
SMASH aims to build self-esteem and resilience and provide young people with strategies to cope with every-day stresses, negative feelings and issues that young people may be faced with at school, at home or online.
So, you work full-time as a SMASH Practitioner…but you’re also the Mayor of Driffield. Tell us everything, how did this happen?
I’ve always been interested in voluntary work. When I was very young I’d help with bake sales, then gradually onto Brownies, volunteering with St Johns Ambulance, and all the rest of it. Then as I got a little older, I was a Prefect at school, on the student council and finally when I went to University, I continued this by being part of the Peer Support group. I was actually given an award for my contribution there.
When I returned from University, I didn’t stop there. I moved back to Driffield and got involved with a lot of community development and youth support work. I’m extremely passionate about my home town, which somehow led to someone asking me ‘why don’t you join the council?’ At first I thought they were mad, I said it wasn’t my kind of thing. But in the end, I went down to one of the events and I realised, maybe I can change things up a bit. Maybe I can help modernise and make some improvements.
When I joined the council, there was quite the change in dynamics. I was one of quite a few younger candidates who made the council, and the newly elected since then have followed in the same footsteps. I was the youngest elected Councillor at the time.
Four years later, I was voted into the role of Deputy Mayor. However, the Mayor at the time was extremely dedicated her role and was available for almost all of the functions, so I didn’t have to do too much. I would say I didn’t get the full experience of what it might be like to be Mayor. Despite this, the following year May 2019/20, I was voted as the Mayor of Driffield.
There are a few times I have to pinch myself and wonder, how did I end up doing this? But I’m just so passionate about what I do and I really enjoy it. I sacrifice a lot of my social life, as balancing my full-time job and being the Mayor is no easy feat, but it’s always worth it at the end of the day.
What motivates you and keeps you positive with such a busy lifestyle?
I think it’s quite simple really; I just really love what I do. I’m so passionate about both sides of my career and I really believe in the importance of community. I love my home town and I feel proud to build up the community feel, support independent, local businesses and prioritise the importance of mental health awareness – they both tie together really nicely in a lot of ways.
I also think it’s so important to inspire the younger generations, because at the end of the day, this role is so much different than even I had ever imagined. It’s not politics. It’s not stuffy or super serious. I feel like my eyes have been opened and I hope to do the same for others.
“I’m a normal person. I’m just doing my bit for where I live, making a nice home for myself and my family, and supporting others as I go. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
What’s been the most surprising part about your journey so far?
Definitely the community-feel and the overwhelming support I’ve been given, from everyone really! I have people stopping me to tell me they feel like I’ve cheered everyone in the town up and really made a difference. It means so much to me.
Also, a lot of my colleagues, friends and family help out so much. Whether that’s my mum coming down to the market to help me with the Mayor Charity stall, or my team putting in a few quid for raffle tickets…everything counts and I appreciate all of it.
I get the opportunity to go to quite a lot of events, like fundraisers and so on. I even get invited to give out student badges in schools and things like that. It’s always special to impact young people in those ways because I just think ‘that young girl could be me a few years down the line, she could be making her place in this town and doing her bit too’.
I’ve heard that a large part of your role has been focused on fundraising, what kind of things do you do?
One of the first fundraising events I did was a race night to raise money for Inspire, my chosen charity as Mayor. I invited Nicola Green from Health Stars along to tell the people all about what we were raising money in name of and why it was such a significant charity that I had chosen, with all of the fantastic work the people are doing there and the impact it will have on our local area.
The people who came to the event were amazing, they bought tickets, bet on the races, had food, raffle tickets, we even had generous sponsors. The whole thing went better than I ever imagined, and we ended up raising the most money any Mayor had ever raised in one night. I was blown away!
Do you have any special events coming up?
I do! My next one is a Dolly Parton and Pie and Peas night, if you can believe it, haha! Then I also have the Easter Raffle and the annual Civic Function coming up.
This is an extremely important night as it’s an opportunity to show off Driffield and what my town has to offer. I decided to change it up this year by making it into a Pride of Driffield Awards show. When we shortlist the categories, the 5 main winners will be invited to join us and collect their awards. I want to showcase the people who make our community special and give them the recognition they deserve.
We’re also inviting volunteers from our local food bank to enjoy the event and a meal, as well as local employees such as those who tend to the parks and things like that. It should be a special night!
Why did you choose Inspire as your named charity as Lord Mayor? Was it the natural connection with your role at SMASH or is there a story behind this?
A bit of both really! Of course, the insight from my job made choosing this wonderful new unit a clear option. However, for me it was more about my experience with mental health and how much I knew this unit would positively impact our communities.
As of last year, the closest unit for people in both Driffield and the surrounding areas was Sheffield, with many children being sent much farther afield. It felt so important to shine the light on this amazing news and raise some money for such a worthy cause.
How do you plan on spending the money you have raised?
Well, I was lucky enough to visit on the official opening day of the unit on 10th January. I was so impressed with the facilities and everything it had to offer, and it got me thinking…how can I improve on something that’s already great?
It’s already got comfy couches, great living spaces, consoles and games rooms…what are these children really going to need? Then I reflected on my role in schools and how quickly supplies run out and how, unfortunately the reality is that staff members often pay out of their own pockets to keep such supplies in stock. I wanted to prevent that by using my funds to keep the arts, crafts and school supplies in stock for as long as possible.
I want the children to have all of the felt tips, paper or whatever else they need without having to worry about it not being there. It’s so important for mental health and general wellbeing to encourage creativity and mindfulness activities such as colouring and painting. I think it will be a worthy and wonderful addition to the space that will impact the children positively and in a sustainable way.
We were so pleased to get to know Amanda; she’s refreshingly kind and down-to-earth. We’re proud to have her as part of our Humber team. If you have any questions you’d like to ask her about her work or upcoming events, please reach out here.