My 20 years working in the social care sector by Donna Briggs

This year I will celebrate 20 years working in the social care sector, and to be honest it is not a direction of travel that I had intended.


My experience to that point was working for a manufacturing company whilst studying part time for a business degree. Fresh out of night school, armed with my degree I wanted a challenge, I wanted to do something different and at the same time work in an environment that helps people.


I was attracted to an advertisement in our local paper by a care home with a solid track record and reputation, which was looking to develop a domiciliary service.


I am proud to say that I am still working for that same organisation, Springhill Care Group. I feel extremely privileged to have enjoyed the development opportunities that Springhill has provided me over the years up to MBA level. I have also grown with the company to become the Managing Director of what has now become an organisation employing some 400 people.


Over that time I have worked with and witnessed some great work, often unseen by people who just want to contribute and help others.


We feel so strongly about the work conducted by people in the industry - and not just from Springhill  - in an industry which is relatively underpaid for the skills developed and undervalued for the contribution made.


To that end, we have launched our Caring Heroes campaign, aimed to recognise and value the people who care for the most vulnerable people in our society day in day out. These unsung heroes are really making a positive difference to the lives of the most vulnerable people in our society, they are supporting them to lead a life we take for granted every day.


They provide the sunshine to their day, they are the first and last person they see in the day, they are there to hold their hand and offer comfort, even whilst the person they care for takes their last breath,


There is no doubt that working in the care sector is no easy ride, after all we provide services to vulnerable people who require care and support 24/7. As we know, people are not products or commodities and can’t be put on a shelf and forgotten about until the next time when you are in work.


It did occur to me early on in my role with Springhill that working in the care sector holds  tremendous responsibility along with a yearning desire to do the right thing by the people you care for and support.


Over the 20 years I have worked and continue to work alongside a great team of caring, compassionate and dedicated people who I now know are here not simply to do a job, but see it as a vocation.

Recently, I was chatting to Sharon who is a support worker for our Affinity Supporting People, supported living service. She told me how much she loves what she does, how the team sing and dance together with the people they support. 


I also recall speaking to a nurse who told me how she had been caring for a resident who was at end of life – the nurse went off duty and returned home. In the middle of the night she awoke and felt the urge to go to the care home to see the resident she had been caring for earlier that day.


When she arrived she sat with the resident who then slipped away peacefully. It was like she had been waiting for the nurse to sit with her - a truly touching moment.


Working in the care environment requires sensitivity, care and compassion regardless of your role in the service. You may be in the office having a meeting but you are also in a person’s home.


It is important that we all respect that. I always smile when I am in a meeting having a serious business discussion, and in the background you can hear people singing an old classic such as You are my Sunshine.


When this first happened I apologised to the person who was in the meeting with me, and then it struck me “what am I apologising for?” I had nothing to apologise about, after all it’s their home, now I smile and sometimes even join in.


It does seem surreal sometimes how you can go from having a discussion about budgets to learning that a resident has passed away and seeing how a staff member is trying hard to hold back the tears as they comfort the grieving relatives. A stark reminder of why we do what we do.


Twenty years working with such a team of people, I consider myself extremely privileged.


Please let us know your story – see #caringheroes on Twitter.


Donna Briggs

Managing Director

Springhill Care Group


Let’s talk up social care by Donna Briggs

As a director of a social care organisation, I all too often hear members of our staff team saying “I'm just a… cleaner, cook, healthcare assistant.”


What these humble people are doing is devaluing themselves. They have chosen to work in a profession that is grossly underfunded and undervalued. They genuinely cannot see the value and the importance in what they do, and they do it every day.


Very often these committed, kind and caring individuals are the only people a vulnerable person may see from one day to the next.


They are the light in the room, the smile on the face and the ray of sunshine for the people they care for and support, providing hope, compassion and care.


And then there is the support they provide for families and friends of the people they care for as they help them to cope with the illness or disability their loved one is battling day in day out.


It is important that we as a society value the care sector and its 1.48milllion employees who are committed to making life better for vulnerable people each and every day. Some even believe social care is seen as more of a domestic service.


(Read Jonathon Holmes article 'Care workers are woefully undervalued – we deserve respect' in the Guardian HERE )


I include the managers of the service, who very often can't take a break as they are on call 24/7 ready to respond should their team need them.


As we enter 2016, let’s make a commitment to place a value on our social care sector and its workforce, the unsung heroes from the manager to those who provide this invaluable lifeline of care on the frontline.

Let’s talk up social care.


Donna Briggs

Managing Director

Springhill Care Group



A moving tribute to a lovely lady by Jakki Whitehead

Jakki Whitehead, Dementia Care Manager at Riversway Nursing Home in Bristol, tells of how resident Kathleen, who passed away earlier this year, touched the lives of people around her, in a moving tribute to a lovely lady.


How does a resident touch your soul?


Kathleen touched mine and Sarah’s. She was 92, alone, independent, had a weakness for the stronger stuff and a love of cats; one in particular, Salem, with super large paws.


Watching Kathleen approach the end of her life was a difficult process interrupted by pain and hallucinations. She was, however, clear about one thing: she wanted to be ‘buried at sea.’


As I mentioned she was alone with no family to carry out her wishes. I phoned the council to be told she did not have enough money for burial at sea; but my Mum’s ashes went off Clevedon Pier so I thought it worth exploring.


Ben, the crematorium official, was very nice, he asked us to wait two months after her death just in case any relative came forward but he said he thought our plan was acceptable.


Kathleen died and had her Catholic funeral in a crematorium and unexpectedly five carers from her last care home turned up; she was one to touch people’s souls. Kathleen was cremated with a picture of Salem.


After two months Sarah and I took Kathleen’s ashes to Clevedon Pier. We read her favourite poem, ‘Ode on the death of a favourite cat drowned in a tub of goldfishes’; emptied her ashes in the exact spot of my Mum’s memorial and watched them taken by the wind to the waves.


Finally, after emptying the last of her favourite tipple into the sea, we went for tea and cake in her memory.


Here’s a link to Kathleen’s favourite poem by Thomas Gray


Jakki Whitehead

Service Manager

Riversway Nursing Home 


Customer service: at the heart of quality

Effective customer service is held in great regard by all businesses, and those working in health and social care place a high priority on this vital aspect of their relationship with customers and the local community.


The Springhill Care Group is keenly aware that every person should expect a quality and person-centred service whilst living in a care facility. The element of customer service should be integral to that process.


The views of families, friends and potential and current residents are paramount to ensuring the provision of care is constantly meeting the needs of the people who use the service.


At Springhill we are aware of the partnership that this involves – all our efforts are centred on the provision of care which enables a person to live their life as fully as they are able to – with a dedicated and professional team who can offer support that is tailored to the individual.


Having served the people of Lancashire and Ribble Valley for over 30 years, we have discovered the intrinsic value of monitoring our performance to our customers in a variety of ways. Possibly the most effective of this is the feedback we receive from people who have experienced our services.


This ranges from those who have enjoyed a short break with us, a period of respite care, perhaps to provide a break for a home carer, during or after a period of illness, or when a family has been supported through a time of bereavement and loss.


A job well done


Our efforts to provide the best possible support, to a large and varied group of people within many sets of circumstances, are often rewarded with the most outstanding praise and gratitude for a ‘job well done’ and wonderful memories of times at Springhill. So many of our relatives speak about friendships forged forever, people who came as visitors becoming friends and continuing to share in the life of the home.


This is a most effective measure of customer service – many of the people who have benefited from the care and support offered at Springhill have been delighted to share their stories.


It is perhaps the greatest tribute to our customers that many wish to offer reassurance, through their own personal experience, to those who may be thinking about a care facility and feel at a loss to know how to begin the process, or, more importantly, how to feel supported if they have to make a decision about someone very dear to them.


We think it’s helpful to allow our customers to speak for themselves:


“I have had a wonderful time with you all at Springhill. During my stay I have improved in so many ways and feel a confidence in myself that I never expected to feel. Not only have you provided excellent support and care, but you have laughed and cried with me during these weeks of recovery. It has felt like I came into a family and I will be eternally grateful for your care and compassion.”


“We wanted to say a very big ‘thank you’ to all the staff for your love and care shown to our mum during her time with you at Springhill. As we spent more time with mum during her final illness it made us realise how much you had all become her extended family. It was very clear to us how much love she received from you all and we are so grateful.”


“We could not have coped without your help in the final days of mum’s illness. The personal touches and the time you all spent with her was unbelievable. You watched over her and understood how distressed we were, taking time to listen and talk with us. Your kindness will never be forgotten.”


“Your staff team are really excellent, they go beyond professionalism and really care about what they do. I’ve been humbled by the emotion expressed by many staff members at mum’s passing and would like to say that what really sets them apart is their kindness and compassion.”


“I must have visited around ten homes when looking for the ‘right’ place and Springhill stood head and shoulders above the rest. I would advise anyone who is considering care to visit Springhill and see the difference.”


“I have been receiving care for many years and having made the decision to move permanently to Springhill I have no regrets. I know I have made the right choice and this is now my home. I am treated as an individual, with respect and as a person in my own right. I live my life as independently as I can and know I have the support and care of staff when I need it.


“Some months ago I celebrated a special birthday and had a wonderful party – many of my relatives and friends came and they all said what a warm welcome they received when they came through the door!”


These reassuring and heart-warming accounts pay the greatest tribute to the individuals who make up the outstanding team, which is Springhill Care Home.


Dedication to a rigorous recruitment and selection process secures the high standard of worker who embodies the values of Springhill, and delivers an enviable quality service which is rooted in continuous learning and development.


A quality care home, for quality customer service.





At the heart of social care

The importance of learning and skills in a modern care setting.

Many people reading this article will probably agree that care and support for the people who are the most vulnerable in our society should be provided by well trained and professional workers, who deliver high quality services across a range of needs.

Sadly, information in the public arena often highlights all that is failing within these services.

To deliver the standard of service we have come to expect requires a great deal of investment – both in resources and people – to ensure care is consistent, person-centred and meets the requirements of the Care Quality Commission and other agencies responsible for the commissioning of services.

Whilst there are many training opportunities for staff who work in the care sector, the vast majority of this cost has to be met by care home owners. The needs of people with dementia, end of life care, mobility and mental health concerns require staff to have specialist skills to equip them to meet these demands. The additional need for these skills are often not addressed because of the costs required to provide them.


Centre of learning

In response, the Springhill Care Group has developed a Learning Centre which is facilitated by a Nurse Educator.All our staff are recruited through a process of person centred values. Each individual recruited who shares these values can be successfully trained to provide safe, compassionate and skilled support.

Each person receives initial training in a dedicated suite where learning is face-to-face and interactive.   Lifelong learning continues through a programme of supervision and coaching.

Increasingly aware of the changing times and challenges for our staff, each person has an individual learning plan and is encouraged to develop their skills and talents through our learning pathway, providing  genuine opportunities for career progression.

All our support staff achieve Diploma qualifications in specialised areas of care. Those wishing to progress are identified, through learning and development, into substantive positions of responsibility, demonstrating a professional pathway which is the envy of the sector.


At the heart of our services

Many of our clients come to Springhill after a prolonged stay in hospital and have many complex needs which include enteral (assisted) feeding, catheter and stoma care, and, increasingly, end of life care.

These areas of acute need require specialism and knowledge as clients have become used to having an array of doctors, specialist nurses and other health professionals available to support them during their stay in hospital. It is vital that the client continues to have knowledgeable as well as compassionate support when transferring to a care facility.

At Springhill, people and their learning and development are at the heart of our services. Student nurses from the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Cumbria spend three monthly placements with us, sharing best practice and evidence-based learning, assisting in our approach towards modern research within a dynamic care environment. Many of the student nurses, after qualifying, apply for a nursing role at Springhill.

We also welcome foundation degree learners and other student placements throughout the year, continuing to attract to the sector those who wish to pursue a rewarding professional career. One of our local colleges has described our apprenticeship programme as ‘the most outstanding in the area.’

Springhill is proudly about to embark on its latest challenge to the nationwide nursing shortage by undertaking a programme of learning for a group of staff to become Assistant Practitioners – a new innovation which will equip some of our senior support staff to work alongside qualified nurses, sharing in many of their roles.

Recently appraised by Investors in People, who described Springhill Care as demonstrating ‘inspirational leadership’ in the care sector, we are preparing to launch a Springhill Leadership qualification which will be accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management this Spring, cascading this exciting development to external care managers in the autumn.

As the need increases for specialised and complex support, Springhill Care is at the forefront of learning – dedicated to ensuring an environment of knowledge and compassionate commitment to all who choose to use our services.




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Springhill Care Group Limited
Head Office
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Accrington, Lancashire
United Kingdom BB5 1NJ

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