What is your background?
I started in social care at 19 in social and health care roles. I joined Dorset County Council Adult Social Services in 1993, where I completed my social work qualification, then my MA in Mental Health. I was then with the regulator for five years. My roles covered most service user groups, focusing on older people, palliative care, dementia and mental health.
In 2004, I joined Agincare when it was a much smaller company and a handful of us covered pretty much every role. In 2013, I became a Non-Executive Director of United Kingdom Homecare Association having worked closely with the Executive Team and other significant provider representatives to tackle the challenges facing the sector.
How has the market changed for Agincare’s broad range of services?
The diversification and expansion of service types has been part of Agincare’s growth plan for years. This has enabled us to adapt well to significant market changes, consolidating and protecting in one area whilst achieving growth in others. It has also enabled us to offer a better pathway of care and to retain staff who can develop skills across services. Coming into the independent sector, I was struck by how services worked in isolation. Until recently provider services worked at odds with one another with little crossover. It is now more commonplace to see organisations diversifying, particularly into specialist services and live-in care.
Legislation and independent reports are again giving real focus to the importance of integrated working. At a recent long-term care conference, William Laing referred to ‘independent integrators’ and I think Agincare can truly say we have been one for many years; though we can do more. Enabling operational staff to share services, skills and signpost remains a challenge.
What are the biggest business and sector challenges?
On some days this feels like everything! Workforce, funding and commissioning remain key with a multitude of issues beneath each. Probably the single biggest challenge is getting all of the right people (and budgets) in the right place at the same time to facilitate the fundamental changes which the system needs to cope with future demands. When everyone is facing individual daily challenges and priorities, finding the co-ordinated effort and energy to change an established system, which is not fit-for-purpose, remains difficult. For this to happen, we need better expectation management, risk-sharing and honest, open relationships across the public and private sector and with the public.
What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
To challenge and not be afraid to stand against the norm or majority view, combined with ‘what’s the worst that could happen and how would that look to an objective bystander’. Also the advice from the managers who persuaded and supported me to get my social work qualification via secondment, as it’s been fundamental to my career. The advice that has most impacted my career, has come from my personal networks who have always supported me to be who I am and to not believe that a job or salary defines you. This has helped through difficult choices and career decisions. I’d advise people to start with their own ability, natural strengths and personality, consider what roles suit this and you’re more likely to be happy and successful. Don’t be afraid to take risks.