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What keeps me awake at night …Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, COO, Sanctuary Group

Sarah Clarke-Kuehn, COO, Sanctuary

As Chief Operating Officer for Commercial at Sanctuary, I oversee a portfolio of operations on behalf of the organisation, including Sanctuary Care, Sanctuary Students and Sanctuary Supported Living, which provides specialist supported housing for the most vulnerable people in society. This includes older people, people with long-term medical conditions, mental health, and disabilities, as well as people who have experienced homelessness or domestic abuse.

When the lights go out and my head hits the pillow, my thoughts start racing…

How do we continue to facilitate positive outcomes for the most vulnerable people in a society when there are staff shortages in the sector, increased pressures, and a backdrop of uncertainty?

Our staff are our greatest asset and the key to our success in putting people first – demonstrated for example, by their perseverance and extraordinary resilience whilst battling unprecedented challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Day-to-day, they go above and beyond to keep customers at the heart of what we do. They strive to maintain our 98% record for ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ CQC ratings across our supported living services, promote wellbeing, inclusion, equality, and social justice, and sustain the delivery of positive outcomes for the individuals that we support.

Loyalty is a two-way street, and we should be taking care of our staff as they take care of our customers, but across the board frontline staff in our sector continue to be under-valued. The size and complexity of the current social care staffing crisis is testament to this, and accelerated turnover can be underpinned by increasing pressure on existing staff – in part, due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic – which has exacerbated long-term issues and prompted high levels of stress and burnout.

As an employer of around 9,500 people across Sanctuary’s supported living and care services, we recognise the importance of supporting our staff. Since the pay for social care work has been historically low, which is causing providers to be outbid by other sectors like retail and hospitality, we’re committed to paying above the minimum rate at £10 per hour. We also take staff development seriously by funding training and providing people with opportunities to upskill and diversify their skillset. As a not-for-profit registered charity, we reinvest our surplus back into our business, including our people, to contribute the best of the best to social care in support of the most vulnerable. Like Granit Rudaj, who started at one of our residential nursing homes as a Domestic Assistant and climbed the career ladder with the help of his manager and a personal development plan to his current role as Deputy Local Service Manager.

Because not investing in our staff comes at what cost?

In a perfect storm of cost-of-living pressures and the impending rent cap, we can’t possibly risk not meeting the outcomes of the vulnerable people we support. And in the face of these challenges, we can expect an increase in demand for our services.

As we tackle these difficulties, I am confident that we’re doing what we can from the bottom-up to support people who are experiencing some of the biggest adversities in life. People who are entitled to equal opportunities and life’s most basic aspirations – like living independently, having access to education and a career – and the fact that we’re enabling these outcomes for so many people means that we’re doing our job, and achieving our goals.

Together, we celebrate our successes and the likes of Daryl and Linda, who we supported through the legal process to get married, or Andrew, who is finally clean of drugs for the first time in seventeen years, and then I can sleep a little easier.



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