Kate Dilworth, Franchise Recruitment Manager (currently working as Head of PPE Procurement) for Right at Home, reflects on the impact of Coronavirus on the homecare network.
The last few weeks have been a real eye-opener to me, as I’ve witnessed our franchise model undergo a significant overhaul to meet the challenges of Covid-19.
I’ve been at Right at Home for nearly 10 years – arriving as a care worker not long after CEO Ken Deary opened its UK pilot office in Preston in 2010. I’ve worked in a range of roles since then and it’s always been apparent that our network has benefitted from strong support and a great culture; the awards we’ve won are testimony to that and it’s been a key selling point in our franchise recruitment strategy.
But my appreciation of the collective strength of a franchise network, pulling together under strong leadership, has risen to a whole new level over the last 6 weeks.
Homecare Franchisees tend to be attracted to the sector because it’s highly rewarding and incredibly resilient, and that has never been more evident. While many SMEs have seen businesses close under lockdown, vulnerable people in the community are relying on their visits from care workers more than ever.
We have also been called upon to assist community NHS services, supporting patients who were discharged from hospital to clear beds for Coronaviurus cases.
But in order to ensure that our care and support services are delivered safely, many aspects of our business model have had to change.
We now need to be able to recruit, onboard and train new staff in an increasingly virtual environment, with all face-to-face contact managed to meet the rules on social distancing.
Temporary new fast-track systems have been approved, so that care providers can get new recruits background checked, trained and out into the field faster, working alongside experienced staff to meet the increased demand and cover for staff who are isolating or unwell.
The interpretation of the Care Act legislation that governs our services has changed, as have the requirements of our industry regulators.
And, like the NHS, we need to provide our staff with the Personal Protective Equipment that’s required to manage infection control. With all PPE stock in desperately short supply, we prioritised taking proactive action to ensure that our franchise owners continue to receive the essential supplies they need to deliver safe care.
Our previous focus on private, self-funded care has had to shift to meet the greater needs of public health and social services, and all care providers have been hit by short-term cash flow challenges, caused by the need to invest in extra staff and PPE.
In the face of this onslaught of challenges, power of the network has been clear.
It’s been amazing to see the franchise owners keep their heads amid a whirl of changing circumstances, and to witness the national office support team move into overdrive; working with a task force of franchise owners to facilitate the changes to our operational guidance, training materials and operational documents.
A new national recruitment hotline is now manned 24/7 and relationships have been established with furloughed workers in the hospitality, travel and entertainment sectors.
The leadership team has implemented a communication strategy that has successfully kept franchise owners and managers up to speed with fast-changing national advice, and – most importantly – our CEO has given
direct financial support to help the franchise offices’ cash flow, investing significant amounts in additional PPE, and liaising closely with the banks.
The National Office team has had to adapt to changing responsibilities, flexing their usual roles to meet the new needs of the network. My own role, for example, has extended from franchise recruitment to procurement; my days are currently spent sourcing and co-ordinating deliveries of surgical masks, plastic face shields and extra gloves and aprons to our 60+ locations.
The combined effect of this drive has enabled our Franchise owners to meet the challenges of the Coronavirus crisis magnificently. Their teams are working tirelessly to adopt the required changes, manage rotas and ensure that no essential visits are missed. Every day we hear stories that affirm their dedication to the business and to our Clients’ wellbeing.
We all work in care because we want to make a difference in our communities, and never will this be in greater evidence than in coming months. We are incredibly proud and grateful to everyone in the Right at Home organisation for the way they have responded to Covid-19, and we’re delighted to see care workers finally getting the public respect and recognition that they are long overdue.
The legacy of Coronavirus will undoubtedly make us stronger.