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Jane Ashcroft CBE

Jane Ashcroft CBE is Chief Executive of Anchor.

Reflections on the last decade

The changes in terms of demographics, family shape, the economy and the political environment have been phenomenal. It’s good that the importance of person-centred care is much more widely-recognised and dementia care is increasingly mainstreamed – as it’s an issue for so many more people than was the case a decade ago. A wider range of services across the social care and retirement housing continuum is a positive, and we’ve grown as an organisation, developing retirement villages and new care homes as well as acquiring homes. We now have more than 1,000 locations across England, serving about 40,000 older people. We’re committed to growing by ensuring we provide the best possible services for our customers, being the best place to work and the best run organisation – progressing all of these areas and our growth plan.

Almost as amazing as the things that have changed though is what hasn’t changed. It’s astounding that successive governments have failed to implement a long-term solution to capping individuals’ care costs. At the same time, State funding is declining in real terms. Politicians like to say we need a partnership between individuals and the State on social care funding – usually that’s code for ‘the State can’t afford this’. We really do need a partnership and we need politicians to be far more proactive.

Projections for the next decade

Demographic data is clear. Longer life expectancies provide great opportunities to create new models of care and housing that older people want – and more demanding customers are forcing us to innovate. Our recent Silver Chic report showed that technology will have a big impact. Who knows? Maybe we will be able to follow the sun with revolving housing one day. But technology will never replace great care provided by human beings with compassion. My concern is where we will find these great people. The introduction of the living wage is a step forward, though funding it is clearly a major issue. Anchor leads the way in rewarding colleagues for their commitment to providing high quality care and their hard work. Every colleague who has reached level 2 NVQ is paid the living wage. This amounts to £9.15 per hour in London. Even those who do not have this qualification are paid above the National Minimum Wage – £8.08 per hour for anyone working in London – because we value them. We’ve seen that commitment to colleagues pay dividends in terms of reduced turnover and higher engagement scores – something that was recognised when we made the Sunday Times Best Companies list for the first time this year.

Insight

I love nothing more than being in our care homes and other services. Chatting with residents and colleagues is always informative and enjoyable. It’s not unusual to come across two or more generations of the same family involved with Anchor and it’s a real honour to see what an impact Anchor has on people’s lives.

Influences

I’ve been influenced by so many people in my life and career, and our customers and colleagues inspire me on a regular basis. In the sector, Baroness Sally Greengross has been a passionate advocate of positive ageing and is a role model for me for her hard work and integrated approach. Care England’s Martin Green is always inspiring because of his championing of the sector – and never has his influence been needed more. I was really pleased to work with Douglas Quinn in getting Your Care Rating off the ground. His commitment and drive has ensured that it has grown to become an important way for consumers to make decisions about care for themselves or for loved ones. For my career Des Kelly, now at the NCF, has been key as he recruited me into social care 20 years ago and has been a mentor and friend ever since. And Connie Oppong, Manager of Greenhive Care home in Peckham, is a true inspiration to me and to many colleagues, achieving the first ‘outstanding’ rating for an Anchor home and for any care home in London through her absolute focus on Anchor’s objectives – best customer service and best place to work.

Advice

Not to listen to advice! Actually, the best advice I’ve ever been given is that whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’ll be right. The main advice I would give to someone coming into a job like this is to listen to lots of different views and to be out and about in your services and around the sector. Don’t get stuck behind your desk or you will make bad decisions.

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