Tell your story with Paul Cullis

Here’s Paul Cullis with his Somerset Care story, Paul retired as Interim Assistant Director of Residential Services last month after almost 40 years of working for the company!

Paul Cullis

I commenced employment with Somerset County Council as a Trainee Residential Social Worker on 1st June 1974. The following year I joined the Social Services Relief Team and this gave me the opportunity of working in all the residential provisions, from day nurseries and children’s homes to care homes for older people. I stayed on the Relief Team for nearly fifteen years, relishing the variety and new challenges and always thought it was an excellent grounding for me in later life.

Following my time of the Relief Team, I took up post as Deputy Manager at Oak Trees and subsequently moved to Frith House and eventually became Manager at a time of major redevelopment, which proved an interesting and exciting experience. My next move brought me to Central Office as an Operations Manager and the opportunity to revisit many of the homes where I had worked years before on the Relief Team.

After almost forty years in the sector, I have seen many changes, I have seen enormous development of services and facilities which have improved beyond recognition. What hasn’t changed is the vast amount of dedicated skilled people, delivering fantastic care every day of the year.

I will miss my colleagues at Somerset Care; it is a wonderful and well respected company. I have many happy memories of service users over the years that I have had the priviledge to meet and play a part in their care.

I feel ready to move into the next stage of my life and I have a number of tasks and hobbies which I now hope I will have the time to enjoy.

From everyone at Somerset Care we will Paul a very long and happy retirement!

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The Big Interview – Activities

This month we took the time to get to know Jazmine Radford, the Activities Co-ordinator at Carrington House in Wincanton. Jazmine is 22 years old and has worked for Somerset Care for 2 years, starting her career as a Care Assistant and taking on the activities 6 months ago.

Jazmine Radford

What made you want to work in social care?

I cared for my Great Grandad for a year before he passed away, after this I felt working in care was the career for me.

Why do you think it’s important for care homes to offer a range of activities to their residents?

A lot of people think that care homes are full of residents sleeping in chairs all day, whereas this isn’t the case! The residents in our care homes do a wide variety of activities to suit their personalities. I strongly think that you’re never too old to participate!

What would you do in a typical day?

I start the day at 10.00 am, my first job is to hand out the newspapers and post to the residents, I also ask them what they would like for lunch and after that bring the tea trolley around and chat to everyone. At 11.00 am I start my first morning activity this could be anything from fun and games such as dominoes or flower arranging and crafts. When the residents start their lunch I plan the activities for the coming months, put together a newsletter for the home or check the stock in the residents’ shop. At 2.00 pm we get together for the afternoon activity, this could be opening the residents’ shop or holding our monthly café.

Do you have a particular activity, event or day that sticks in your mind?

I enjoy hosting the monthly café because lots of the residents get involved, I also enjoy organising trips out to places like the garden centre. This year I’m looking forward to organising a trip to Longleat for the residents, I think this trip will be good for reminiscence and trigger memories from their childhood.

Thank you to Jazmine for taking the time to share her experiences.

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Seasons Greetings from Alyson Martin

We are just on the cusp of completing our annual review which will be circulated early in the New Year so I will save my round up from across the business for the moment!

Alyson MartinHowever as 2013 closes and we approach 2014 it is a time to recognise that we have a had a busy year across all parts of the business. It is also a time to reflect on the important contribution that all staff have made over the last year. I have been visiting some of our services in the run up to Christmas and continue to be impressed with the quality of service from our staff and the good humour and laughter along the way. I was out on visits battling through the wind and rain thinking how challenging it can be just getting to work some days and at times like these especially so for our community teams having to battle through the elements to get between visits.

Maintaining the quality of our service is vital to the many customers who rely upon us, we now support nearly 5,000 people every day – so many people rely upon us providing consistently high quality and reliable services every day. It’s an amazing team effort, from carers, support teams, assessors, office staff and Managers everyone playing their part to ensure the whole service works smoothly.
Thank you for all your support and dedication throughout the year. I know many of you will be working over the Christmas and New Year period but hope that you also find some time to relax and enjoy the festive season.

From all the Directors and Central team – Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2014.

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Jane Lynch – ‘Tell your Story’

We caught up with Jane Lynch, Assistant Director for Residential Services, before her retirement in September. Here’s the story of Jane’s Somerset Care journey:

Jane Lynch

“My first job was as a supervisor at Wyndham House where I spent seven very happy years, before being given the opportunity to become the Manager of Croft House. It was here that my passion for improving the quality of life for people living with dementia was ignited.

Along with my very dedicated team, we created one of the first specialist dementia wings, offering a different type of care that focused on providing an enabling, stimulating and fulfilling lives.

Over the years Somerset Care has given me some amazing opportunities to develop our dementia services (PETALS). I have travelled to Scotland to seek expert guidance on environmental design. A word of advice; don’t make this trip in January as we nearly got snowed in! But, the advice we received started us on the road to developing our ground-breaking style of dementia friendly homes.

I have also worked with the team from the psychology department at Exeter University, helping us to be one of the very few companies to deliver evidence-based practice in our homes and the community.

The journey to my current position of Assistant Director of Residential Services, has been interspersed with a variety of other roles and projects, which have all gone to make my career exceptionally rewarding. But, without a doubt, the icing on the cake has been the opportunity to work with some very amazing people.”

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A Day In The Life Of A Community Services Manager

This month we caught up with Diane Martin, Community Services Manager for the South Hampshire area. Diane was recently awarded the ‘Outstanding Leader’ award at our annual awards presentation and was nominated for the ‘Community Team of the Year Award’ in the Portsmouth News annual ‘Best of Healthcare Awards’.

How long have you worked in the care sector?
I have worked in the care industry since 1984, when I was just 16 years old, I worked in a nursing home and was the matron for 4 years. In 1991 I started my own agency, but sold my business to have my two children. I wanted a break but the Manager of Echoes heard that I wasn’t working and asked for my help! I agreed to help her in 1999 when my daughter was 6 weeks old, first with care work, then with co-ordinating. In 1999 I also qualified as a counsellor, but decided to stay in care.

How long have you worked with Somerset Care?
I started working for Echoes in 1999 and became a Manager in 2004 when Somerset Care took over.

What attracted you to domiciliary care?
I started community care in 1991 which was when it really impacted my life, I wanted to see people have more choice and independence. I also really enjoy meeting new people and the challenge of helping someone to achieve their goal of staying in their own home.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
I enjoy that every day is a different challenge. The work we get is spot purchase so a good reputation is vital, so we do a lot of publicity events and I enjoy getting involved in them. I work with an amazing team who embrace all the events we have done in the community and love coming up with new ideas to engage and involve the local communities.
I enjoy meeting service users and hearing about their lives, events are a perfect opportunity for this to happen, we have recently held coffee mornings, cream teas mornings and have stalls at the local supermarkets, to raise awareness of the services we provide. In the past we have also gone to the schools to talk in assemblies, letting young children know what we do and how rewarding it can be.
Working with a fantastic team of carers is another high point. I have for years tried to raise awareness of what they do and the difficult circumstances in which they work.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a very busy home life with my husband Stuart, 14 year-old son Sam and 13 year-old daughter Becky. I also have a step granddaughter called Honey who is just nine weeks old. I have a great circle of family and friends, so I have a busy social life and my house is always full of my nieces and nephews, who I love to spend time with.
I run twice a week and go to circuit training as I have been dared to do the Santa Run in Portsmouth, and I can’t refuse a dare!
I also like to read and try out new cocktails in my spare time.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Diane!

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Chris Davis – The Big Interview

In January 2012, Somerset Care welcomed Chris Davis as their new Chairman. We caught up with Chris for his Big Interview.

You have a long and varied career in social care, can you describe your route to becoming our Chairman?
Having trained as a social worker in South Wales, I joined Somerset Social Services in 1971 and although most of my caseload was with young people I remember admitting three people to the old Calway House, two of whom has lived all their lives at Sandhill Park Hospital (both Ethels, I recall).
In 1989 I began 14 years as Director of Social services for Somerset. Leading a strong team with excellent relationships with elected Councillors, we were able to build services which were recognised as amongst the highest quality and most innovative in the country. We were the first to set up a joint health and social care trust (which continues as Somerset’s successful Partnership Trust), and the first to close all our Victorian hospitals for people with learning disabilities, building services in the community which transformed lives.
Of course, ours was also the first successful venture to set up a not-for-profit company, and transfer to it all our residential, day and domiciliary care for older people. Somerset Care was born! There is absolutely no doubt that it has been a huge success, partly because we got a few key things right in that first design, but more because people have worked tirelessly and with huge imagination to build it. That’s why it has been such a pleasure to get to know the company again, firstly as a Non-Executive Director, and now as Chair.
It was a huge wrench to leave Somerset County Council after 32 years, but I went to Cardiff, a great city in my homeland where Social Services were in severe crisis. Since returning from there five years ago I have done some consultancy work, led the establishment of the Social Services Improvement Agency, Cymru, and chaired the safeguarding board for children in the London Borough of Southwark.

You have been a Board Member for four years, what have been your key milestones during that time?
One of the great strengths of Somerset Care is that it is constantly adapting and improving whilst staying the same, through the strong values which we all share. We know that we have to succeed as a business if our vital services are to thrive into the future, but our ethos is public service, working closely with Councils and the NHS, and to help the people we support to achieve what they want for themselves.
The best thing about my job is getting about to meet people – our staff, who are so loyal, warm, skilled and lively; and our clients, who have such vast and varied experience and wisdom to share with us, and such a delight getting to know.
Recently it has been good to be part of building our new executive team, with Alyson’s excellent leadership. Change and continuity again! Special pleasures have been opening the wonderful new Croft House, the development of our PETALS dementia service, our impressive move into reablement through home care (focussing on the outcomes that people want to achieve in their lives), the hugely impressive new standards we have achieved in end-of-life care and the growing significance of our learning disabilities service.
About a year ago, we resolved to position Somerset Care as a dedicated provider of services for people with learning disabilities in the South West, adopting the ‘REALISE’ brand. That work continues apace, and brings me special satisfaction.

What new challenges and responsibilities do you face as Chairman and how do you expect Somerset Care to adapt to the future?
National Government must address the inadequacy and unfairness of funding for social care. The challenge for us is to be as efficient as we can possibly be, but also to help every individual to be as independent as they possibly can. That is good and fulfilling, but it is also vital because neither government nor each of us can afford to pay for any more help than we really do need. The other big issue (I’m only allowing myself two!) is our residential and nursing care buildings. Whilst some are flagships to be proud of, and many other can be maintained to provide excellent services for the future, others are no longer fit for purpose. How we manage an urgent replacement programme in the current economic climate is a huge challenge, but one we are determined to meet.
I have four grandchildren, two in the mountains of Northern Spain and two in Taunton. Katy and I try to see both families as much as possible. My lifelong passion has been singing, and I now run the excellent village choir in Halse. I’ve recently taken up the trombone again after 35 years, and I’m making progress! I play a bit of golf, and try to swim in the sea as much as I can, including an annual boxing day dip at Branscombe (wet-suits are not approved of). On the voluntary service side, I have chaired Taunton Music Trust (Orchestra West) for the last six years, I am a Trustee of the Somerset Community Foundation, and I was honoured to be appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of the County 18 months ago.

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Alyson Martin – The Big Interview

In January 2012 Somerset Care welcomed Alyson Martin as their new Chief Executive. We caught up with Alyson for Acacia Time’s Big Interview.

1. Alyson, you have had a long and varied career within Somerset Care, can you describe your journey within the company?

I started my career in Somerset in 1983 when I took over the Manager’s position at Sunnymeade in Chard. However my career in care started almost by chance at 16 years old when I was an Assistant Manager in a small family run care home that my “in laws to be” used to own in Bristol. I soon realised that although I had not deliberately chosen to come into care work I thoroughly enjoyed the role and therefore have remained in the care sector throughout my career. I had a brief spell in children’s services when we moved up to Derbyshire in the 1970′s, but as soon as the opportunity arose I moved back into services for older people.
In 1991 I was Manager at Sunnymeade when Somerset Care was set up, it was a time of uncertainty as this type of not for profit service had not been tried before. I have to say that it was the very best decision that Somerset County Council ever took! Over the years with Somerset Care I have held a variety of responsibilities from, managing care homes, taking the lead for Quality Assurance, writing policies and running training courses, so I feel I can understand the business from all angles. I became a Director for the company in 1992 and have seen its development over the years.

2. What have been your key memories whilst working within Somerset Care?

There have been many “people” memories. Having cared for and supported many older people over the years through the opportunities and challenges they faced throughout the 20th century, I feel that my life is a richer place for having been able to play a small part in supporting them, as many of them reached the end stage of life.
I have always been a strong advocate to develop my team and take a great pleasure to see others progress and make a success of their careers. As I was preparing for my recent interview I reflected back and remembered that I had played a part in nine of my staff progressing to be Managers of care homes or community bases.

3. What challenges and responsibilities do you expect to face as Chief Executive?

I feel that I am well placed to take the helm for the company, I have spent many years in senior positions within the company and I have a strong knowledge of the services we deliver and the challenges our teams face on a daily basis. The current economic climate that the whole country faces makes providing services a difficult environment in which to operate. But I do believe the breadth of the service base as well as the wider geographical spread has positioned the company to survive and be stronger for the future.

4. How do you expect the company to change in the future?

We will need to continue to expand our services, examples include diversifying our training, continuing the end of life services and extending the innovative PETALS services for people with dementia. Support services for learning disabilities will grow and we will continue to need to update our care homes. It will be increasingly important that we maintain quality services to both those who commission our services as well as those who are private customers. As well as promoting our services we need to ensure we continue to value our staff. I recognise that we have to continue to direct our efforts towards ensuring this means financial rewards as well as the other aspects of supporting staffing and providing excellent training.

5. What are your hobbies and interests away from Somerset Care?

Frank and I have 2 sons living away from home so trying to fit in visits to see them takes up a lot of our time, as well as supporting our 3 cats, a dog and 5 ducks (sadly no eggs). Walking and bird watching is also something I enjoy when the weather is good and trying to get fitter by regular slots at the gym.


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Volunteering – A day in the life of Sophie

Sophie Pettler has kindly offered to answer some questions about her volunteer work.

Sophie is 17 years old and is currently studying at a local sixth form for her A Levels, in her spare time she volunteers at Greenhill House in Cheddar.
How long have you volunteered at Greenhill House?
“I started volunteering in July 2011.”
Why did you chose to volunteer for Somerset Care?
“I chose to volunteer for Somerset Care primarily to develop better skills working with people of different ages and levels of health as this relates to my aspirations to become a Doctor. I continue to come weekly, not just for this reason but because I find spending time at Greenhill House enjoyable, rewarding and a worthwhile way to spend an afternoon.”
What tasks do you undertake while volunteering?
“When I first started I introduced myself and sat in the lounge chatting to the residents, occasionally playing scrabble or helping out with daily activities. More recently I have been trying to make myself more useful by helping to prepare the tea and anything else that needs doing. With time the residents started to recognise me and I am aware who may like to chat and where to find them. My confidence has increased which has helped me a lot!”
Why do you think volunteers are important to the care sector?
“Volunteers are important as an extra support to staff and carers who work incredibly hard but are often very busy. It is also important to have fresh faces for the residents; it’s nice for them to chat with someone different who can encourage them to share stories from their life.”
What do you enjoy most about being a volunteer?
“One thing I enjoy about being a volunteer is when you know that you are appreciated by a resident. It may be that they just appreciate a short chat or you have helped them to find something or brought them a cup of tea, but it is nice to know you are there being helpful. Another thing I admire, especially as a potential medical student, is the phenomenal ages some of the residents have reached, and in such good health. Working at Greenhill House has further inspired me in my hopes to be a Doctor, showing me the difference modern medicine has made in improving people’s lives.”

Thank you to Sophie for taking the time to give everyone an insight into being a volunteer in the social care industry.



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