Innovative angels eye national award

Date published: 29 February 2024

An Oldham care company that encourages its staff to treat clients “as if they were family” is in line to receive a major innovation honour.

Visiting Angels delivers such a dedicated service to people with care needs including disabilities, dementia, and terminal illness, that it even allows the person being looked after to interview and vet their carer.

This is vital for people from diverse communities who sometimes feel ashamed that they need looking after.

And Visiting Angels has a Carer-Centric approach to its staff - with employees at the company the only ones in the sector to have an annual pay rise and a career path planned for them.

Even their cars are serviced regularly for free.

All of which has landed them a place in the Innovation berth of the Great British Care Awards (Birmingham International Conference Centre on March 22), and a date with presenter, Rylan Clark.

“Our ambition for the franchise is to be the care employer of choice by 2030, one which everyone wants to work for” said Managing Director, Roxie Taj.

“These two things go together. It is all about building a relationship with your client and that can only be achieved with time and familiarity.

"Just as Asian people have uncles and aunties in their community who are not blood relatives, we want them to be like another member of the family - as far as professionalism will allow.”

The social care system in Britain has endured a huge crisis, before, during and after the pandemic.

There are still 152,000 unfilled vacancies in the profession and the turnover rate for staff is almost twice the national average.

Fellow founder Badar Usmani said: “It is bizarre how while older people slowdown in their lives, councils expect their carers to speed up.

"It often boils down to a care assessor looking at a client’s needs and believing carers are only there to give out medication and check things are okay.

"They think that can be as little as 15 minutes work but sometimes it can take 15 to just get the person "with it".

“Furthermore, “companionship” doesn’t exist in the council’s dictionary.

"High volume care is commissioned to “cheaper” providers who then offload onto carers with back-to-back client calls and minimum wage.

"Carers are given little, or no travel time and mileage is not paid.

"So, a carer could be out for six hours but only paid for four “working” hours.

"Consequently, good carers are forced to adopt bad habits resulting in the public perception of care as bad overall.”

Badar continued: “It should be about establishing trust, confidence, and relationships, not who can finish first. Visiting Angels deliver a minimum one-hour visit and place a greater value on the benefit of companionship.

"Visiting Angels will collaborate with local councils if they raise their standards to ours, which means providing the resource to help us pay higher wages and improve our retention.”

Badar and Roxie are aiming to use the award to continue with their Carer-Centric approach to make caring and carers count - with both seeing them as, “the original front-line workers before medical professionals.”

Visiting Angels Manchester East - set up in October 2022 - now cares for people across North and East Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Saddleworth, and Tameside and has 17 members of staff.

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