NCF Rising Stars 2019

Kelly Hartley is Manager of Cherry Garth, run by The Fremantle Trust.

Career history

I started my career in the British Army, where I spent 12 years as a healthcare assistant. When I left, I wanted to go into social care and I joined The Fremantle Trust in 2004 as a care worker looking after older people.

Soon after that, I moved to a learning disability service where I worked my way up to assistant manager.

My husband’s work took us abroad for three years, but I knew when I came back to England that I wanted to re-join The Fremantle Trust. They didn’t have any senior positions available so I joined as a care worker again, before becoming senior care worker and then assistant manager again within 18 months.

I’ve spent my whole social care career with The Fremantle Trust and I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else. They’ve helped me develop into the manager I am now. They knew I wanted to work my way up to registered manager and so when I got promoted to deputy manager, they sent me to work with a manager in London for 18 months to develop my skills. I’m now a registered manager at Cherry Garth care home.


Cherry Garth is a 60-bed residential care home for older people, including those living with dementia. We care for them from very early stages of needing support through to the end of their lives.

We have an engaging activity programme which gets us really heavily involved with our local community. We use the village hall for boules, have parties at the school, invite the church to hold services in the home and have a Strollers Club so residents can go for walks around the village.

We were runners-up for community engagement in the Dignity in Care Awards with Buckinghamshire County Council, and we are very well known in the village – lots of residents come from the local area.

Our reputation is spread by word of mouth, so we don’t need to do a lot of advertising, and lots of our employees live locally too.

Current role

I’ve been a registered manager for just over a year now. I wanted the job so that I could improve the lives of people I care for in a bigger way.

I’m passionate and innovative, and I want people to have what’s best for them. I have always had ideas about ways we can develop services.

Being a registered manager means I can implement some of these ideas to give residents more – we’ve put in a bar and a library and we’ve just turned an unused room in the home into a craft room. We’re also opening a coffee shop which will be named and run by the residents, whose families will be able to come in and support them by helping out too.
Something I’m really proud of is our sensory garden. The outside space wasn’t used much when I first came here, but we’ve made it a vibrant and interactive space with lots of places to sit, and everybody loves it now.

For me, being a manager is also about improving the lives of your employees. I see it as a responsibility to support them if they are facing things in their personal lives – you have to recognise that people have issues outside of their work and help them with these as far as you can to get the best out of them.

This is a job where you learn as you do. You see a manager sitting at their desk, while you’re rushing around on the floor and dealing with emergencies, and you think that it looks straightforward. But the truth is, some days I don’t know whether I’m coming or going.
I love the job but it’s definitely more difficult than I ever anticipated. The marketing, financial and HR side of things makes it complex. I knew about budgets as a deputy, but you have to consider occupancy levels and agency costs within this.

It can also be quite lonely. I’m lucky at The Fremantle Trust as there are other managers within the organisation I can pick up the phone to. My own manager is really supportive which helps and I feel extremely encouraged in my role.

Even though it’s hard sometimes, the job is better than I ever expected. I get really excited when our plans come together and I’ve never felt so fulfilled.

When I did care work, I loved it, and even though I have other responsibilities, I do still get to do that. I’m not a manager who just sits in the office – I frequently sit with residents for a chat and I make sure I support with breakfast and lunch.

I love seeing employees and residents happy. I wish more people would work in care as we put our all into supporting residents and it can be hard to get cover when people are sick or need shifts swapped.

I’ve done a huge recruitment drive though and we have reduced our agency hours in the last year by two thirds, so I’m really pleased about that.

NCF Rising Stars

I didn’t know anything about NCF Rising Stars when I was nominated. My manager nominated me and I had to research the programme. I read up on it but didn’t really grasp the scale of the programme until I went to the NCF annual conference and met the other Rising Stars.
I am so happy to be chosen. It’s such a privilege and it means a lot that my organisation saw potential in me and recognised the work I do.

I’m going to meet with my mentor, Helen Woodland to get some new ideas for Cherry Garth and am looking forward to the guidance she can give me. I’m also really looking forward to having the support and getting to go to all the NCF Rising Star events, especially the managers’ conference.

Rising Stars is a fantastic opportunity and I feel really privileged and honoured that I’ve been selected by NCF. Everyone has been so lovely and made me feel really special. The whole experience has been brilliant. I was so nervous going to meet everyone but was made to feel so welcome. It’s a fantastic thing and I’m hugely appreciative to be part of it. I look forward to being part of NCF for the rest of my career now.

Future Career

In the future, I would probably like to become a director. It’s not something I aspire to at the moment, because I like being in the home. For now, I’m setting my sights on aiming for an Outstanding rating in my next inspection, which is due any time!

I want to keep developing the service and getting residents involved in things so that we are offering the best service we can.

Hopefully being a part of the Rising Stars programme will help with this, as I can talk to others and get advice and guidance. Attending the events has already given me so much inspiration too.


For aspiring registered managers, I would say always ask for help, even if you think the question is stupid – just ask.

Someone once told me, ‘You don’t know that you don’t know something until you don’t know it’. I stand by that and believe there’s no such thing as a stupid question.

I am lucky to be very well supported by my organisation and I think other companies should make sure they are doing this.

It’s been so important to have had support from all departments, especially HR – they are invaluable.

Now in its third year, the NCF Rising Stars Programme addresses the need to invest in and develop the skills of the next generation of leaders in social care, with registered managers from the NCF membership selected to take part each year.

For more information, contact Helen Glasspool at National Care Forum. Email: Twitter: @NCFCareForum

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