My initial impression of Brook Street was that it was one of the more helpful and accommodating agencies around. Having applied to a full time job, i received a phone call after a few days, and arranged to meet the branch manager to discuss the job.
Having registered and discussed the job in great detail, I was invited for an interview. We then went through lots of practice interview questions. However, before the interview, I found their service became a bit overbearing. She kept calling me, and emailing me to see how my interview preparation was going. On the day of the interview I then had to speak to the agency afterwards. After a few days, I heard that i was successful with this interview, and had been invited for a second one. Again, the branch manager flooded my inbox with interview advice and possible questions that might come up. Having attended the second interview, the agency called me almost immediately afterwards asking for feedback.
She then said she'd get back to me very soon about how it went. One week went by and I heard nothing. They went from contacting me every day to not a word in a week. Two weeks go by, I send an email. I never got a reply.
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this agency. They are just in it for the commission and will put anyone forward for a job, even if you aren't a suitable candidate. They are all nice to you when they see the £££, but as soon as you don't meet expectations they disappear.
Brook Street or 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
134 Hatfield Road
Tel: 01727 848292
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.
Thanks for reading.
I am looking for a long term temp assignment, and I can say that Brook Street aren't high on my list of agencies. I'm looking for a top level temp assignment and wasn't impressed with the haphazard way in which you are inducted at Brook Street. Upon registering I was given a simple form to fill out, made to do typing and computer skills tests (at which I achieved top marks) and that's all! No discussion about what type of work I would like to do, which industry, or more details on my past experience, just fill out the forms and that's it. I'm sure that if you are looking for immediate work they may be the agency for you, but if you are looking for a position that you would be happy to stay in for longer than a week, you may have to register somewhere else.
A few years ago I was but a poor and humble student looking to earn a bit of extra cash. After trying some other big name agencies,I came across Brook Street in my local high street so I thought I'd give them a try. The staff seemed friendly and very helpful during the application process.I had to complete what seemed like an easy aptitude test,and register with them.Being as I didn't have any transport or much free time I didn't think they'd find me anything. Later that same night I recieved a call asking whether I'd like a job working down the local PO sorting Office.I agreed and started that same night.I worked there for ages and even when I couldn't work for a couple of weeks,they still kept in touch to find out how I was doing.This is a totally different experience to what I had been used to in the past.Other agencies had never bothered calling me back if I missed even one work day. I was impressed and would recommend them to anyone.
I have worked for Brook Street (Strand branch in London) for just over a year now. I intended to temp for no more than a couple of months, which is perhaps testament in itself to the standard of service. They deal mainly with admin, secretarial and reception appointments, but their clients are not always big, well-known companies (although a lot are) - I have worked for the Probation Service, an actors' agent, an internet design company, the Civil Service and a vicar among others. They arrange temporary, permanent and temp-to-perm positions. They say that each appointment is checked out before they send a temp on it, but this doesn't eradicate all problems - the most common being that the client doesn't really need a temp at all and you find yourself working half-days. When you're paid hourly this can make quite a dent in your wages, but if you let the agency know they will try to resolve the problem (and generally succeed). In general the pay in London is quite good, between £6-10 an hour depending on the type of work and nature of the company. Brook Street's accounts department tends to be very efficient too - always paying you the right amount at the right time and dealing with holiday pay effectively. (Temps are now entitled to up to 3 weeks' paid holiday as you would be in a permanent position). The work tends to be regular, especially when you have been with them some time and a company reports back positively on you. The staff (in my branch certainly) seem genuinely concerned about you and ring once every few weeks to make sure that you are still happy in the job etc. The only disadvantage I would site is that to be paid on a Friday your timesheet has to be in your branch by midday the previous Monday - the don't accept faxed copies - which is a nuisance if you don't live particularly near the branch. The other things that can occasionally be a problem is the night service - if you
know that you are going to be absent from work or late, you can leave a message out of office hours so you don't need to worry about it in the morning. However the reliability of the operators tends to be variable and I have (on more than one occasion) received tense phone calls at 11am asking where I am, because an operator had failed to pass on the message. Despite these things though, I would rate Brook Street as a pretty reliable agency who work hard to get you work.