At Exemplar Health Care, we know that our care services are more likely to be effective if they’re developed and delivered with the direct involvement of people who use them.
One of the ways that we do this is through our Service User Ambassador scheme which gives our service users the chance to represent their views and that of their peers during monthly Service User Council meetings.
Ambassadors work with senior managers across the company to make the whole living experience as enjoyable as possible, giving them a direct say in the ongoings of each home.
They benefit from it a lot and it really supports them in a number of ways. It builds their confidence, it helps them to practice new things and it really gives them a purpose around the homes.
The Service User Ambassadors are looked up to and recognised in the homes by both residents and staff. They have an ID badge and their photos up on the wall, so we’ve tried to make them feel part and parcel of the fabric of what we do.
The initiative also offers people the chance to get involved in a range of roles around each home. This can include things like blog writing for the company’s website, volunteering for duties in homes or organising activities for the other residents.
In recent years, Service User Ambassadors have helped run company-wide events such as the Exemplar Elite Games and Exemplar’s Got Talent.
Some of our service users also get involved in the recruitment process for each home, such as Chris at Thames House in Rochdale.
He is a long-time Parkinson’s patient having been diagnosed with the condition aged 30, and helped set up the scheme as the founding Service User Ambassador.
Chris now plays a crucial role in introducing new staff to his home, sitting in on interviews while also assisting with the induction process.
He sits down with new staff to make them feel welcome, while also explaining to them what life is like at Thames House and giving them tips on how to help its residents.
He tells our new staff how to relate to the service users, what sorts of things help him and what to avoid doing. It’s a really interesting discussion and dialogue and he effectively talks to all the new staff from the point of view of somebody who’s living in one of our homes.
The feedback from our service users has been overwhelmingly positive – for many, being an ambassador empowers them and gives them a sense of purpose.
Some of the Ambassadors have said to me it helps them rediscover qualities and skills that they perhaps may have forgotten that they have. It also helps them to build new skills and continue to act as an integral part of our society.
People come to our homes with a history, they’ve had a life, they’ve done a lot out in the community, so why not continue to do that while they’re living here?
These opportunities are also changing people’s perceptions of what it is like to live in a care home. You often hear about when people come into care homes they think that it’s the end, they don’t know what to think, but they’re not expecting any of these types of opportunities to be available to them.
It’s important that they don’t feel like that, as it’s about maximising the quality of life for them and giving them a purpose.