Neil joined the Plan with Care team as a Care and Wellbeing Consultant in May this year. He brings with him 28 years of experience as a social worker for Kent County Council, where he worked in a variety of areas. They included safeguarding for people living with dementia and, most recently, managing the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards service for Kent. This is in addition to being a senior practitioner in community older people’s teams and hospital teams; a practice teacher; a trained best interests assessor; and a marker and reader of post-qualifying social work awards.
It was clear from the start that Neil was a fountain of knowledge in the care sector, so we decided to interview him about why he left the statutory care sector to come and work with us in the private care sector.
How did you feel about leaving statutory care?
It was a huge leap, and, if I’m honest, it was rather anxiety-provoking. While it was exciting, after 28 years working with Kent County Council, it was quite a scary change.
However, the time had come for a change. I have reached a stage of life where I wanted a better work-life balance. I could have just taken my pension and retired, but I’m not ready for that. I still need meaning and purpose in my life and to be involved in care in some way so I can contribute my experience and knowledge that I’ve gained over the years.
What attracted you to Plan with Care?
The Care and Wellbeing Consultant role with Plan with Care looked quite different from the work I had been doing for a number of years. My work as a social worker had become very office-based and I had very little contact with the vulnerable people I was employed to help. I saw an opportunity to take a more hands-on role while still using my specialist knowledge to help both the people they support and the team itself.
From the very first contact with the directors, Chris and Nathan, it was clear that their drive and focus was on improving quality of life for people, and I saw this as a chance to do very positive work and return to the roots and aims of why I went into the line of work of trying to help people in the first place – all those years ago!
What is it that Plan with Care does differently?
They have a certainty of purpose. They work for the aim of improving the lives of the very vulnerable people they work with. These people often have nobody, or very few visitors. While the statutory care will look after their physical and medical needs, there’s often nobody to truly enhance their wellbeing. And we have to remember that not all vulnerable people have access to statutory care – as self-funders, they are not on any official ‘books’, but often simply go from hospital to a care home, where they pay for what the home can provide.
While the majority of care homes do their absolute best for the people who live with them, they just don’t have the resources to dedicate time to individuals. They are busy doing care rounds, administering medication and meeting physical needs. There may be an activity coordinator in a home, but that doesn’t mean each person in their care is going to be catered for individually.
This is where Plan with Care offers something quite different. They look at the person for who they are – their history, their family, their connections. They consider what that individual person might want to do and create options in accordance with their interests, hobbies and abilities. This could be as simple as sitting in their room with them for company, holding their hand for physical contact. But it’s more than under-resourced care homes can do.
How do you think we can further the mission of Plan with Care to help more people?
There is a certain dichotomy that exists between the statutory and private care sectors – that the private companies are the big bad wolf that are out to make a profit from people’s circumstances. And, in my experience, I’ve certainly seen some commercial enterprises where it’s been clear that they’ve not been working with the interests of the person at heart.
But there is a genuineness about Plan with Care that shows that they are driven to do the best for the people they are supporting. Their ethos is that the individual is at the heart of everything they do.
So, we need to find a way of breaking this taboo and showcasing the work that Plan with Care does, to prove their drive goes far deeper than running a profitable business. There is genuine demand from people who want actual help and Plan with Care has the time and dedication to listen to the individual and provide what they need. This is sorely lacking in the overstretched statutory care sector.
This is a tall agenda though, and relies on people recommending Plan with Care to those who need support, or their families, friends, or indeed solicitors. We need these people to realise and recognise that we can provide the specialist support they need.
I look forward to being part of this. It’s very early days in my journey with Plan with Care, but I am finding the work I am doing with them very gratifying – both in terms of the direct support I am giving to the vulnerable people we support, and also in terms of working with people with such knowledge and passion. It’s a change that provides me with hope in the care sector.