From care worker to entrepreneur, Natalie Allcock is the CEO of the VIP Day Centre, affordable respite care which aims to fill the gap left behind by public sector closures. Here Natalie talks about her journey from care worker to business owner and her continuing commitment to improving wellbeing through quality respite care.
My journey in social care started when I was 18 as a home care worker for an agency. It was hard work but very rewarding. I loved the buzz I’d get from knowing I was making a difference to people’s lives.
I had been working with the care agency for several years when my Nan became ill with dementia. Most council run day centres had closed and agencies were charging close to £20 an hour to come and sit with her. This wasn’t what I wanted as this still left her socially isolated from her friends and the community.
After a lot of thought, I decided I should open my own day centre, as after all, I had all the knowledge and training in care to do so. I wanted to be able to offer a non-institutionalised, exceptionally caring environment with knowledgeable and compassionate staff.
This had to be somewhere where the costs were kept low and affordable. I believe all care should be free but knew this would be impossible so I vowed to do everything I could to get maximum funding from social services, whilst educating people about their benefits entitlement.
There seemed to be a lack of information about available benefits following the devastating diagnosis of dementia, so informing people about financial assistance as well as dementia friendly activities in the community was another element, I was keen to promote. I feel strongly that knowledge and communication is vital at a time when people need support the most.
It was challenging getting the business off the ground; the first two years being the most difficult and running at a loss. This didn’t deter me however, as I had a strong vision and knew there was a real need for this service.
We found an old barn which was the perfect location. Service users loved it; taking part in games, exercises, singing and enjoying home cooked food. As we grew, it became a home from home with most people reluctant to leave.
The staff were all handpicked based on their values; good listeners and a genuine passion to care. We gave them the best training we could from the best training providers available. Most staff either have, or are working towards, their Health and Social Care level 5 which will enable both them and the service to develop and flourish.
All the staff are intensely trained in dementia care, but due to the lack of day centres anywhere we have service users with Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, sensory impairments and other disabilities.
I am so happy with the decision I made to start my own business knowing the service is making a tangible difference to people’s lives. Reducing social isolation, enabling people to remain in their own homes and helping our people to live their live full and meaningful lives.
We now have two centres with waiting lists and have recently started franchising. My goal is for all communities to have access to the same services we offer.
As the next chapter of my life awaits, I am determined that my vision of quality, affordable respite care in all our communities can be fulfilled.