Opinion

Why recognition matters

Sharifa Lakhani, CEO, Holmes Care Group

Sharifa Lakhani, CEO of Holmes Care Group explores the merits of competitions recognising the efforts of care workers, examining the impact of the national Going the Extra Mile competition across homes in England and Scotland.

The last two years have been difficult for anyone working in social care. We have faced multiple challenges throughout the pandemic – from a nationwide PPE shortage and the slow setup of testing infrastructure during the initial stages to new variants and ever-changing public health advice. All of this has added to the pressures of caring for some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Across Holmes Care, our team went above and beyond to keep each home running smoothly. Many stepped into new roles during the initial response to the pandemic and stepped up to lead others. This meant turning their hands to being a chef for a fortnight or stepping up to manage a home’s entire team, when colleagues displaying symptoms of COVID-19 were forced to self-isolate for everyone’s safety.

I have no doubt there are hundreds of stories like this across our sector. Compassion, kindness and bravery epitomises social care workers. But, rarely are these stories heard and this is where we, as care providers, can go one step further to ensure our colleagues know we value their work.

At Holmes Care, we ran the national ‘Going the Extra Mile’ competition in partnership with Impact Healthcare REIT to recognise the tireless hard work of our teams. We encouraged each home’s manager to highlight the contributions of their staff, nominating individuals for a £1000 prize fund for their care home. Five winners emerged from four of our homes.

Sarah Keeton, a Senior Carer, and Linda Williamson, Deputy Manager, both stepped in to run their respective homes, when shielding advice meant Managers at Baytree Court and Heatherfield Nursing Home needed to self-isolate. Faced with evolving public health advice, they worked with health and clinical commissioning groups to make sure care, food and hygiene teams were implementing the latest guidelines. All while managing their responsibilities as carers or organising video calls for residents with their loved ones.

At Beechwood Care Home, our Activities Coordinator, Helen Miller launched her own make-believe ‘airline and bus tour company’ in the home at a time when bus stations and airports were closed. Thanks to her, residents ‘travelled’ to London and Dublin for afternoon tea with the Queen and a pint of Guinness on St Patrick’s Day.

Care Assistants, June Shields and Jacqueline Knox made sure our residents at Larkfield View had all the food they needed, when restrictions meant kitchen staff needed to self-isolate at home. They turned their hands to preparing a 90-bed home’s full menu safely and even a cake was served up for one lucky resident’s birthday.

We know our colleagues go beyond the call of duty to support others. They help people live with the dignity, respect, and support they have a right to, and did so with even more enthusiasm at a time residents were kept isolated from their loved ones.  We wanted to celebrate them for this – not only to boost morale but also to foster a supportive environment where they could talk about their achievements and what they value about each other.

Put to good use already, the £1,000 prize money for each home will be spent on welfare and wellbeing initiatives. Baytree Court refreshed their staff room with fresh paint and new armchairs. Beechwood will arrange for benches to be installed outside the home, where any colleague in need of fresh air can take a break, and a bike rack will encourage staff members to cycle to work.

Anyone who works in social care is no stranger to overcoming challenges. We face plenty of them, often as a result of long-standing issues such as staffing or underfunding. Something as simple as a friendly competition can create the supportive environment our colleagues deserve, even while it might seem as though the rest of the world does not appreciate them enough. It is our duty as care providers to make sure each colleague knows how much they are valued.

Edel Harris

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