Then One Day: Caring for your Community

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Today, we head to North East Dartmoor to hear from a community who took care work into their own hands after being let down by external care providers.

North East Dartmoor Care (NEDCare) goes out of its way to serve the local community… from the four wheel drive volunteers who deliver carers to work safely in the snow, to the locals going out of their way to take elderly clients up onto the blustery Moors. Now, they want to help other communities do the same.

Read the transcript

Kate Rendell, NEDCare 

We were going to a really frail lady; she’s in her late 80s. She had not been out of the house for two, three years. She just had people come in from the church and that was about all she saw. And I was talking to her about my dogs, and that was when I had three dogs – I had George, Betty and Ethel. And I said, “Oh, I have to get up really early to get up here in time”. I said, “I walk them around the church at Highweek”, and I said, “I see these amazing sunrises and I hear the dawn chorus”. And she said, “I haven’t heard the dawn chorus for so long”. So, I recorded it for her on my phone and I recorded the sunrise. I took it in, and I went, “Look, look, this is what I did this morning”. I said, “You can see all the dogs running about and listen for the birds”. And she was like, “Oh, thank you so much. That is just so amazing.” And working on that, we managed to get some re-ablement time for her. And we went up on the moor because she loved the moor – she used to ride on the moor – and we went to the Warren House Inn and she walked through the door and she cried. And she just said, “Thank you so much. You’ve made my life so much better.” And then we went home again. And after that, she went out every week, somewhere different up on the moor.

 

Veronica Gordon

This is “Then One Day”, the podcast that explores that special moment when strangers become a community to create change in the local area. I’m Veronica Gordon.

Today, I wanted to start our episode surrounded by the sounds of Dartmoor’s High Moor, a beautiful expanse of rugged greenery that overlooks the towns, villages and hamlets that make up the heart of our episode today. The reason I think it’s important to start here is because, like you heard in the clip before, this scenic landscape is much more than a postcard view. It represents home for the local residents that neighbour it. And home, and our right to stay there despite illness, is the theme of the episode today.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

It’s absolutely beautiful where I live. It’s only half an hour from Exeter, and about an hour from Plymouth, so it’s not like massively isolated but, that said, it’s a very rural area. We’re on the edge of the High Moor so it really ranges from the beautiful, wooded river valleys, all the way up to the High Moor, which is really beautiful, very interesting in the snow. And yeah, some of the places we get to are very isolated.

 

Veronica Gordon

This is Julia Darby. Julia is the co-founder and chief officer of North East Dartmoor Care, which is usually shortened to NEDCare.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

Back in 2014, I was working part-time in my main job for a charity over in East Devon. But I had some time on my hands and a friend who knew that I was interested in care, invited me to join them in a group of local self-employed carers, who were supporting older people in the village that I lived in at the time. So, I had two jobs, and was working part-time as a carer on a self-employed basis. And I did actually have my own physical problems at the time. I spent a couple of months using crutches to get around and actually a couple of friends moved in with me to help me manage shopping and cooking and the rest of it. So yeah, a difficult time, but I was thinking about social care.

 

Veronica Gordon

The care group that Julia joined became a huge success, with word of mouth filling their diaries and a growing waiting list. But it quickly became apparent that there needed to be a better, more organised, and reliable care solution in the local area.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

But to be honest, I was pretty intimidated at the time by the potential scale of the problem. You know, social care wasn’t an area I was familiar with and as a regulated sector, it felt quite complex. And as a potential service provider, it’s potentially fraught with risk – you know, you are responsible for people’s lives at the end of the day.

 

Veronica Gordon

So how did you do it? How did you think, “OK. This is something I want to be able to help, I want to do something about it”? How did you become from a concerned person to a business owner?

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

The real trigger that spurred us into action – I went along on a cold and wet and windy November evening to a consultation that was being run by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which was focused on closing the beds at the local cottage hospital. And in fact, the beds had already been shut for some time by that point, but it was an interesting evening. The parish church, which was a big church, was full to capacity, you know, absolutely packed out with local people. And the chap from the CCG, he stood up at the front and, you know, basically said it’s ok to close the beds at the hospital because there’ll be care at home for everyone. And there was literally this massive gasp from across the audience because what we really knew as a community was that was just not the case at that point in time. And you know, if that was the plan, then who was going to do it?

My old colleagues from Moretonhampstead Development Trust were in the audience and, once the meeting ended, we kind of got our heads together; a lot of people were gathered around quite concerned. And within a few weeks, literally a few weeks of that, we had drawn down a little bit of money; I think £3,000 initially. So, we spent quite an intensive, sort of 10 months or so, really delving down into the issues – running a local consultation; running local surveys. We met with GPs, parish councils, social services; did quite a lot of desk research to find out as much as we could through local data. And we ran open public meetings to really try and engage the local community and what the issues were that we were finding. And it turned out from that whole piece of work that the area was being described as being in market failure for social care, which was quite a shock to us in a way – we didn’t expect it was going to be that bad. But in short, seeing as we were in market failure, we knew we had to do something.

 

Veronica Gordon

NEDCare was officially registered by the Care Quality Commission in July 2017, which was a huge triumph. Finally, there was an organisation providing care for the local area that truly understood the needs of its residents. Which is where local carers and Dartmoor enthusiasts, like Kate, come into the picture.

 

Kate Rendell, NEDCare 

Well, my name is Kate Rendell and I rocked up to NEDCare about two years ago because I loved their advert, which basically said they were a not-for-profit company. Why did I get into it? My mum got cancer; and then 18 months later, my dad got cancer; and I looked after them. And then, I went from being a duty manager in a really posh conference hotel to applying for a job at Rowcroft Hospice. And I worked at Rowcroft until I had my kids and I absolutely loved it – I had the Rowcroft dog and I used to take my dog round with me on the rounds. And it’s just a really rewarding job; just brilliant. So anyway, I went into Rowcroft, I worked there for a while. And then, I went back after I had my children. I worked for Marie Curie, and then I ended up here.

I’ve worked for a large care agency and they didn’t care about the clients at all. They used to call them revenue generators. And because we had so many clients, every time you rang in and said, “Oh, so and so needs the district nurses”, it didn’t happen. Because there were too many people and they were too interested in making money. To us, every client is different, and they are part of the family. We’ll all say it; even from the office, Simon says I’ve got 30 people that are part of my family. And they are. We do mad things for them. Like, what was Simon doing a couple of weekends ago? Oh, we had a new chair coming for a lady in North Bovey. But obviously, the lady’s husband was too old, and he couldn’t move the chair and the daughter was away. So, Simon went out, put the chair in the back of his car, moved the chair, took it to the tip next to her, just because we wanted the package to be right and we wanted her to have the new chair.

A lady last Christmas, she was going to her daughter’s, but she was worried about the slippery floor at her daughter’s and their elderly Springer. So, I took Sam back with me for Christmas because another dog didn’t really make a difference. And then, she had a really nice Christmas, and she wasn’t worrying about Sam falling over on the floor. So, it’s just a really simple thing to do but it made her Christmas happy.

 

Veronica Gordon

I love the way Kate describes the relationship between the carers and their clients as one big family. It must be so reassuring for the relatives of those receiving support to know that their loved ones aren’t simply a name on a list but are genuinely cared for. Like Andrew, the son of a local farmer whose wish to stay on his farm until the end was made possible with the help of NEDCare’s team.

 

Andrew

My dad was a – a lot of people have described him obviously since he’s been gone as a true gentleman or whatever. He was a farmer all his life. When he left school, he worked with my grandfather, or his father, and then he took on a farm in his own right. So, he was a farmer for all his life, worked very hard. And unfortunately for him in latter life, suffered a few illnesses and things like that. He basically had a heart operation many, many years before and things started to catch up with him again. But in all that time, he still carried on farming; never stopped. My dear dad loved the place so much, or whatever, that he was that place. You know, everybody would have said, if they knew Christian, Christian was Kendon Farm. And he stayed at the farm to the very end nearly. So, that was my dear dad.

 

Veronica Gordon

For Andrew’s dad, staying at the farm, despite his worsening health, was really important to him. His farm was his home. But previous care providers had struggled to work in its remote setting and would let him down at a moment’s notice. But the rugged terrain and country lanes are at the core of NEDCare’s mission. So, come rain or shine, they would find a way to get there.

 

Andrew 

Even when the weather got bad in the winter, I mean, they even contracted in somebody with four-wheel drive vehicles to actually get their carers to those rural locations. It’s what they are really; even when it snowed, and whatever, you know, they made the effort, they rang ahead, and they said that, you know, all being well, so and so will be with you, they’ll be coming via this transport and whatever. And I think a lot of that is because you’re actually based right in your area; you know what people you can use to do things, and they could get the job done.

In actual fact, you know, it would almost become really the highlight of his day. Because even though my father was still able to go outside and walk about and things like that, he did need help, he did need care. Yeah, they all become friends. Yeah, they do. You know, when one or two left or whatever, Dad was very sad, I must admit. He didn’t enjoy that fact. You know, he got to know these people quite well and they got to know him quite well, and if anybody did leave, or whatever, you know, it made him sad for a little while. And we always like to know how these people were and everything, and my father was one for always wanting to be in touch with people and that. And that’s the sort of person he was.

 

Veronica Gordon

Eventually, Andrew’s dad passed away. And while that’s never easy, Andrew sounds comforted by the fact he knows his dad spent those final months on his own terms.

I asked Kate how she copes with letting clients go after forming such close bonds.

 

Kate Rendell, NEDCare 

You’ve got people that you’re fond of that they go, and I know they’re more comfortable. It was their time to go. And then, I was talking to Andy about it the other day, and I said, I get in my car, I take a bunch of flowers. And I look up the 10 commandments with Ethel; say the 10 commandments for bit; throw the bunch of flowers about and then come back; and I’ve remembered them. And I still get text messages from people thanking me for what I did. It embarrasses my kids so much, because I’ll be somewhere like Tesco’s or walking somewhere in the park and a little old lady will come and give me a big hug and say, “Thank you so much for what you did for me.” And the kids are like, “Oh no. Here we go again. Someone else that she’s helped out.” It does happen quite a lot.

 

Veronica Gordon

I can’t help feeling like this type of community-driven care should be available for more people. Luckily, Julia feels the same and has been developing a toolkit called Care Connect, that will make it easier for other people to follow in NEDCare’s footsteps.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

So, the Care Connect toolkit is essentially a kind of a step-by-step guide to setting up and running your own carer introduction service. And it incorporates a kind of finance and beneficiary spreadsheet. So essentially, you can go in and you can input data around the size of your target population. And it sort of pulls information out of that as in, how many people you can reasonably expect will have an unmet need in terms of care in your locality. And then you can kind of make decisions on how much resource are you going to put into it. So, you can decide how much you have to pay somebody, how many hours a week they’re going to do. And then also, you know, walk through the steps that you need to set up a new service. That might be from startup, you know -where you have to get yourself incorporated, find your legal structure, get incorporated, set up a bank account, you know. From that point, all the way through to you might be say a development trust, you’re very well established; what are the steps you need to go through to set up a new service?

 

Veronica Gordon

After the team had developed the toolkit, they realised they could take it one step further, and create an online platform that people would be able to integrate with their own websites and online services. This would make it really easy for people to get set up instantly, and enable NEDCare to add in even more tools, support and resources.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

The next stage is developing an online platform, which we are looking to licence, to start up social enterprises, community groups on a white label basis. So essentially, they will be getting what looks like an extension to their website with all the tools and resources they need in there. And people then seeking care will be able to go in, put in their postcode, and come up with a list of all of the self-employed carers working in their area. And then through the platform, they’ll be able to make contact; they’ll be able to see their training certificates and what have you. And through the platform, they’ll be able to then recruit and manage rotas and payments and billing through the platform. That’s the kind of essential functions. But we want to kind of add value to that, because we recognise that self-employed carers quite often are individuals out there on their own delivering that service themselves; they might not necessarily have peer support or know other carers, so they’re very isolated. But also, you know, anybody can be a self-employed carer; you don’t have to have any training or experience or qualifications; you don’t even need to have a DBS check. So, we’re looking at how we can kind of incentivize people to take up training, to give them opportunities for professional development; but also, how we can make that service safer for the people who are receiving self-employed care. And the idea is that we licence that out to community groups and social enterprises; we licence it on an affordable basis. So, if you’re working with up to 10 people, then it’s a low price; if you’re working with 100 people, you know, the price is staggered, basically. And I think what’s really important there is that, essentially it’s kind of a business in a box for these organisations. It’ll help them to set up viable new income-learning services to support local people. It’ll look like an extension of their offer; in terms of the services they already provide. It’ll have their logo all over it. And I think more importantly, I guess, it’s going to help them to meet local needs; it’s going to create new jobs; it’s going to build local capacity in terms of care. And they’re essentially creating new infrastructure – community-level infrastructure to support social care needs.

 

Veronica Gordon

I absolutely love this. NEDCare has carved out a way of working that has proven to be a success with their local community. But instead of keeping those trade secrets close to their chest, they’re creating tools for other communities to adopt. And this isn’t just a good deed, there’s an opportunity for profit too.

 

Julia Darby, NEDCare 

For us, at the kind of platform level, I guess, we’re wanting to generate profit to go back to the NEDCare charity to continue to subsidise care for people who can’t afford it. But I think over and above that, what’s something I’m really excited about is how we can use any surplus profit from what we’re doing to kind of reinvest in communities themselves. So, it might be that we look at targeting areas that are in market failure or market insufficiency, that perhaps aren’t so well off in terms of the sort of community level ecology and networks, and how do we kind of seed fund communities to help them to develop their own new services. You know, it’s about creating employment and creating new services. But also, that money is kind of staying within the communities that it serves. A virtuous cycle is the plan.

 

Veronica Gordon

That virtuous cycle that Julia talks about, feels like a perfect symbol for what it means to care. That through the act of giving, we get something in return. I love that this principle isn’t just being built into the practical work that NEDCare is doing but it’s also reflected in their business plan.

And with the theme of giving love and care in mind, here’s Andrew again to tell us about his dad’s final gift to him.

 

Andrew 

Yeah, so very shortly after they’d been up and running and whatever, one of the carers is now my fiancé. Amy was coming out to care for my father and I think he thought he could do a bit of matchmaking there, you know. Obviously, when carers come out, and they get to know the client and the client gets to know the carer. And my father would be very canny in what he did, I think. He used to, you know, obviously talk to Amy, and found out that she’d been on a long-distance walk. And of course, my father turns around and says, “Well, Andrew’s done a few of those, perhaps you would have a chat about it.” And we also used to think that he purposely would delay eating his tea, and when Amy would come and I would be in the other room or whatever, he would say to her, “Why don’t you go and sit with my son a minute and I’ll just finish my tea. You know, I’ll tell you when I’m done.” That would be, yeah, a little bit of a cheeky side to my father. And that made him very happy, I think, to know that he’d done that as well. And he was very, very pleased that we were together. I think there was a comment made once that employees of NEDCare are not allowed to accept gifts from the clients and I think I had to be declared at one point.

 

Veronica Gordon

If you’ve been inspired by anything you’ve heard in today’s episode, head to powertochange.org.uk for more information. Make sure you join us again in two weeks’ time for our bonus episode, where NEDCare’s Julia Darby will be back to give us her top five tips on how to create a self-managing team. Thanks to Power to Change who brought you this podcast and to Pixiu for producing. I’m Veronica Gordon. See you in two weeks.