A Christmas Carol – A Tale of our times…

The joy of having teenagers means there is a chance to revisit the classics, as they work their way through the GCSE syllabus. And sure enough last week, I found myself squashed in my sandwich role between my Mum and a gaggle of sweet eating kids – working our way through a solo rendition of A Christmas Carol.

As marvellous as it was – I found my mind wandering…

Having worked our way through the tried and tested mechanisms of influencing the parliamentary agenda around social care using evidence, testimony, lobbying and more – the advent of a new PM might be just the moment for some ghostly intervention! Their midnight visitations might go something like this…

Take my hand – and we will travel with the PM back in time with the ghost of Christmas past – and see what we can find…

Our first set of images are shockingly similar. As they press their nose toward window on window, year on year, they see learned groups of individuals, talking earnestly, speaking at podiums, clapping and walking from the room clutching the latest manifestation of a plan for social care. The pile of plans grows higher, until we enter into a green chamber, where the people sit opposite each other, row upon row, debating and passing legislation to address the delivery and the funding of social care (the Care Act 2014 is born). The night capped (as opposed to care capped) adorned PM turns to look at his ghostly partner in triumph – job done they call – take me back to my bed chamber – only to hear an unearthly cackle as his spectral guide fades from sight…

A new apparition joins, the phantom guide to the present. This time the visitation has a more urgent feel. The visits range from home to home, with increased rapidity, seeing people struggling to cope, carers pressed beyond measure, workers racing from home to home with barely time to connect with people, MPs surgeries pressed full of people unable to access services because of escalating eligibility, people isolated and alone, adults unable to live independent and fulfilling lives. Alongside this sits a revered star, the NHS, where behind the glitter of the shining name, the PM is shown with unerring insight that the challenges for people, workforce and funders are a mirror of their symbiotic social care twin.

The needs are critical, the pressure mounting – so filled with frantic despair the PM clutches their battered red box, searching for the policy reform that will make this picture disappear – but like old Mother Hubbard – they find that their cupboard is bare…

Being well versed in literature, the PM implores their phantasmagorical guide to rush forward, and hand them over to the future – desperate now to see how their efforts in charge have played out. With remarkable likeness to the Dickensian plot, the spectre of the future takes the PM toward a grave yard. The tombs lie deserted, the graves unkempt. Peering through the gloom, the epitaphs are clear. The lost souls of integration, cross party talks, reform and accessibility lie before them – abandoned in a world devoid of plans for independent lives – with the long grass growing all around the graves that once smacked of ambition.

Wrenched from this night of spectral insight – the PM looks in the mirror. The stories have been told, the impact on lives writ large before them. The tipping point has come and the fulcrum lies with them.

The date is 13th December 2019 – and the message is clear – social care reform has been abandoned for far too long, and without action, the long arm of neglect stretches forward to an unhappy demise of ambition and fulfilment for citizens across the country. The time for action is now – and the agenda for change starts here. Check out the NCF Manifesto for some ideas.

For those who prefer pictures to words check out this seasonal animation on a similar theme and share. Mike Padgham has clearly been visited by the same spirits!

Follow Vic on Twitter - @vicrayner





New playlist guides launched

Playlists offer a way of musically capturing all the songs or pieces of music that make up the soundtrack to your life.

Your playlist is unique to you and can help express your identity and history through music. When making a playlist for someone else, particularly those who are no longer able to communicate using words, it enables you to tap into who they are, their likes and dislikes, memories and most importantly, who they are as a person

A personalised playlist can provide a source of comfort and enjoyment for individuals and helps to ensure that music-listening is person-centred. In thinking about designing playlists for people living with dementia, evidence suggests that there is a ‘memory bump’ for music. It appears that people living with dementia retain clearest memories for music they enjoyed and heard between roughly the ages of 10 and 30.

Whether you’re creating a playlist for someone with or without language, it’s important to talk to them about their music and whether they would like to make a playlist with you. Help them to be part of their musical soundtrack by involving them from the very beginning. They may not be able to answer you in sentences or with words, but they might nod, smile or shake their head. Perhaps hum a phrase or two from a song to help get your musical conversation started.

If you have someone in mind to create a playlist for, here are six simple steps to get you started.

  1. Create a list of potential songs based on who the person is – You are looking for music that is meaningful to the person you are making a playlist for. You can ask the person or their family members about favourite tunes or you can start looking for clues. How old is the person? Where did they come from? Where did they live? What was their job? Did they have children? Is there music associated with any of the things you know about the person?
  2. Look more widely for clues – Are there old photos showing the person at a musical event or trigger ideas about what their musical likes might be e.g. on the football terraces or at a Sunday School picnic? Does the person have a record or CD collection at home or hidden in the attic? Are there any programmes or ticket stubs in a special drawer?
  3. Track down fragments of songs – There are lots of great apps and websites to help you identify songs that you can’t remember the name of. You can also type any lyrics you remember directly into Google, or other search engines, using quotation marks around your search term.
  4. Test our the playlist with the person – Make sure the room is calm and comfortable. You will need to have access to the internet to play the music on your phone or laptop to the person you are making the playlist for. You may wish to use a journal to help you record what happens. As each song plays, take time to really focus on them and look for any reaction or response. This might be eyes opening or moving around, fingers or toes tapping, a change in facial expression. They might become more alert or speak. They might become more relaxed or more responsive. Put any song the person responds to onto the playlist, you are making the playlist for, if you are streaming music.
  5. Watch out for red flag songs – music is powerful. It can transport people to another time or place. That is a great gift, but you do not want to take someone back to a bad place. Tears are not always negative, but if someone becomes very agitated or distressed in response to a certain song, you should stop the session and discard that music. Remember to keep a note of red flag songs so that they are not played again. You should pause the session and support the person through their experience. Give them time to process and express their feelings but also help them to move on. Make a note of the song as a potential red flag song and one to be used with caution or one to potentially discard.
  6. Headphone Hygiene – If using headphones, we would encourage everyone to have their own set. We would recommend the use of over-ear, padded, wipeable headphones as they can be easily cleaned with an antiseptic wipe before and after a session. There are lots of headphones available and we would advise people to try a few pairs to get the best comfort, lightness and fit.

Find out more about Music4Dementia2020

Anonymous donor gives care home residents a Christmas to remember




An anonymous donor has paid for thirty residents of Barnes Lodge Care Home to enjoy a Christmas Party at their local pub, proving kindness, generosity and Christmas spirit are well and truly alive in Tonbridge.

Santa with resident Joan

The pub regular, who wishes to remain anonymous, paid for the residents of the care home, which is just around the corner, to tuck into a full turkey roast, followed by Christmas pudding, mince pies, coffee and drinks.

In addition to their festive lunch, residents were greeted by Santa, his elves and his beautiful Huskies, all of whom took a day’s holiday from work to volunteer and help out with serving lunch. But that wasn’t all, after lunch, each resident was given an individual gift, thoughtfully and kindly donated by one of the pub’s regulars. The afternoon concluded with a game of Bingo, with more donated prizes.

Melanie, Landlady of The Cardinals Error said: “We believe that pubs are the heart of the community and we are keen to do our bit for and give back to the community we serve. It was a lovely afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the joy it brought to the residents, we’re hoping to do it again next year.”

Santa with resident Barbara and General Manager Nicky

Nicky Pett, General Manager of Barnes Lodge added: “The lunch was truly special, and we are so very grateful to the pub and donor for doing this for us.

“The pub was decorated beautifully with lights and trees and the tables laid with crackers and festive decorations, it was a wonderful experience and both the residents and staff were overwhelmed with the kindness and generosity, we can’t thank them enough!”

NCF launches its Manifesto

On Tuesday 3 December, The National Care Forum (NCF) launched its Manifesto, shaped by members, outlining key asks for social care and quick wins for the first 100 days of a new government.

The key asks in the Manifesto include:

  • Respect and recognition for the value of social care
  • A 3-5 year funding settlement NOW to protect the provision of care, as part of a long-term funding solution
  • A long-term vision for social care shaped by those who use it now, and in the future
  • A professionally skilled workforce, properly valued, better paid, with more training and development
  • The creation of an innovation transformation fund

Vic Rayner, Executive Director of the National Care Forum, said;

“There is a consensus that our current social care system is in urgent need of reform. Whilst we can celebrate the success of increased longevity, this is being undermined by more years lived in poor health and an increasing demand for care amongst people of working age. A 20-year cycle of reports, reviews and independent commissions, not to mention missing green papers, has failed to bring the change we need. This needs to end!

 She continued;

 “On 13 December, the new government must recognise the importance of social care, the need for an immediate 3-5 year funding settlement as part of a long-term funding solution and a long-term vision for social care shaped by those who use it now, and in the future.”

You can find a full copy of the NCF Manifesto at: www.nationalcareforum.org.uk/ncf-manifesto

If you would like to discuss the NCF Manifesto in more detail, please contact Liz Jones, NCF Policy Director or Nathan Jones, Policy, Research and Projects Officer

Download this press release in full - NCF Launches its Manifesto


Notes for Editors:

The National Care Forum (NCF) represents the interests of not-for-profit health and social care providers in the United Kingdom. The NCF has been promoting quality care through the not-for-profit care sector for over 25 years and is a leading voice in the sector.

The NCF is governed by our Board of Directors and assisted by the NCF staff team, headed by our Executive Director, Vic Rayner. We keep our members up-to-date with news and developments in the care sector and provide opportunities to meet and share ideas and best practice through our regular forum meetings, annual conferences and events, membership benchmarking surveys plus our highly valued weekly newsletter.

NCF is dedicated to representing members, having their voices heard by the decision-makers. We ensure member interests are represented at all levels and are in constant contact with government departments, politicians and the media to ensure their message gets across. Together we have a stronger voice!

Contact us

National Care Forum

4th Floor, Friars House, Manor House Drive, Coventry, CV1 2TE

Tel: 02475 185524

Find out more about the National Care Forum

@NCFCareForum | @vicrayner |@NCF_Liz

Coverage Care develop innovative nursing hub for local area




Coverage Care Services, which operates 14 care homes across the county and employs 1,000 staff, has developed a new Nursing Hub to boost opportunities for qualified nurses in the area.

The move comes as the not-for-profit organisation experiences increased demand for its services and celebrates one of its most successful years with all homes in its portfolio now rated either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ by independent care home inspectors.

Samantha Woosnam, head of HR said: “As demand for our services continues to grow we are tasked with making sure we have high quality, trained nurses in place to deliver the exceptional care our residents deserve.

“It’s a careful balancing act but with well publicised nursing shortages both a local and national problem, there is a need for both a radical and innovative approach to recruitment which addresses some of the key challenges around pay, working hours and flexibility.

“Our new Nursing Hub aims to resolve some of these issues by offering nurses permanent work, guaranteed structured hours, higher rates of pay and paid travel expenses.”

Coverage Care has created two nursing hubs, one covering its homes in Whitchurch, Shrewsbury and Oswestry and the second incorporating homes in the Telford, Bridgnorth and Newport area.

Nurses applying for jobs within a single hub will work core hours in up to three different homes during a contracted working week depending on where support is required.

Mrs Woosnam added: “Restricting the amount of travel time for nurses to just three homes within a set geographical area provides greater continuity from a care perspective for our residents but also reduces the impact of travel distance and costs for nurses.

“The Nursing Hub really is the first step in Shropshire towards addressing nursing shortages and we are confident it will not only speed up the recruitment process but will also continue to drive up standards of care.”

Health and social care charity The King’s Fund recently said that staffing was the ‘make or break’ issue across the social care sector. It’s Director of Policy Sally Warren was commenting on the new State of Care report from the Care Quality Commission.

Just last month, Coverage Care, which has been providing nursing, respite and residential care services for older people and those with dementia for more than 20 years, launched a new specialist recruitment website to assist care staff looking to either start or further their career within the sector.

Find out more information on jobs available within the Nursing Hub

"As demand for our services continues to grow we are tasked with making sure we have high quality, trained nurses in place to deliver the exceptional care our residents deserve." - Samantha Woosnam

Good news for Coverage Care!




NCF Member Coverage Care are celebrating after an unannounced inspection by the Care Quality Commission found them to be "exceptionally effective”.

Barclay Gardens, a purpose built care complex in Donnington run by Coverage Care Services, promotes a “positive culture of person centred care” and has “extremely vigilant staff”, according to the recently published report.

The inspection team visited Barclays Gardens, which is home to up to 40 older people including many living with dementia, in September and spoke to residents, relatives, staff and healthcare professionals as well as reviewing medical and staff records and care plans.

Barclay Gardens received an overall good rating with its effectiveness ranked as outstanding. It was last assessed in 2016 when it was ranked as good across the five key criteria.

This latest inspection means all 14 of Coverage Care services in the county are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in the national rating system.

Inspectors commented that residents and relatives described the service as exceptional with health professionals praising the outstanding working relationship they had with staff and managers at the home.

The report added: “One person told us, everything is thought of. We do not have to worry about our health and all of our needs are well catered for. The staff are always there for us, to help us, chat with us and entertain us and they know us so well. So for us, this place is perfect.”

Barclay Gardens

Barclay Gardens’ manager Debbie Ellis said: “This excellent report is testament to the hard work of a very dedicated team of staff.

“To get such positive feedback from residents and relatives and to have our staff described as amazing, thoughtful and respectful is hugely gratifying. We are delighted to receive this endorsement and will continue to provide high quality care and support people to live their life the way they want.”

Chief Executive of Coverage Care, Chris Wall, added: “The kindness and care that Debbie and her team deliver and the way they treat every person with dignity whilst allowing them to live as independently as possible was clearly apparent to the inspection team.

“We are committed to delivering the best care we can for our service users and will build on this report to ensure we maintain the highest possible standards of care across the board.”

Coverage Care Services is a not-for-profit company, meaning that any surplus income is put back into facilities, services and staff, rather than being paid to shareholders. The organisation has homes in Shrewsbury, Telford, Wellington, Bridgnorth, Newport, Bishops Castle, Market Drayton, Whitchurch and Oswestry.

NCF members nominated at Skills for Care 2020 Accolades





We are delighted to share two NCF members have been nominated for awards in the Skills for Care 2020 Accolades!

The Skills for Care Accolades awards celebrate adult social care providers and individual employers committed to delivering high quality care. Now in their 16th year, the awards are an opportunity to showcase successes and celebrate achievements within the sector.

Community Integrated Care have been nominated for two awards:

Best employer of over 250 staff
This award recognises adult social care providing organisations/services that invest in developing the skills and knowledge of their workforce to offer high quality, person-centred care and support.

Most effective collaborative approach to integrated new models of care
This award recognises effective approaches to integrated and collaborative partnerships, which bring together workers from different agencies to coordinate and/or deliver adult services that are focused on the individual, not the organisation or profession.

Guild Care's Haviland House have been nominated for:

Most effective approach to leadership and management
This award recognises employers who have a commitment to effective leadership and management at every level of their organisation.

Find out more about the awards


The Care Badge Inaugural Financial Awards

The CARE badge Community Interest Company (CIC) has announced the inaugural recipients of CARE badge financial awards.

They have awarded £10,000 between four care-related causes, nominated by carers across the UK, to support their ongoing social care services.

The successful recipients are:

Thurrock Carer Services – providing information, advice and support to adults who are unpaid carers of a Thurrock, Essex resident.

Cùram Resource Club – set up on the island of Tiree, the most westerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, by local volunteers determined to maintain the independence of elderly and disabled islanders and to defeat isolation.

Sage House Dementia Support – set up in Chichester in 2014 to provide a vital service offering support, guidance, and care for those living with dementia.

The Care Workers Charity – founded with the objective of supporting current and former care workers with one-off crisis grants of up to £500.

These four awards of £2,500 each are the first to be made by the CARE badge CIC following the launch of the CARE badge initiative on the 26th June 2019 and the subsequent sale of 90,000 CARE badges. The Board of the CARE badge intends to make further financial awards on an ongoing quarterly basis.

CARE badge Board members Liz Jones, Robin Batchelor and Martin Green commented, “The crucial role played by both paid and unpaid carers is often taken for granted due to a lack of awareness and appreciation. As such, it is great to see so many CARE badges now in the community and to be able to financially assist these four well deserving, grass-root charities as a direct result. Thank you to our CARE badge Charity Committee volunteers, Sam, Victoria and Shauna for assessing the nominees. Together we look forward to supporting further care-related causes in the future and encourage carers to continue to send us their nominations.”

To find out more about the CARE badge grant application process, please visit www.thecarebadge.org

Notes for Editors:

Social Care across the UK:

In the UK as a whole, there are over 2 million social care workers and 7 million more unpaid carers. With each carer supporting at least one person, over a quarter of the UK population is either providing or receiving care outside of hospital every day.

The daily impact of care is even greater, given the significant number of family members of those working in or receiving care, as well as the suppliers and employees that assist the sector. Carers deliver this high-quality support each day, no matter if it’s a holiday for others or if the weather is adverse and travel is difficult. Unfortunately, they often do so without the public interest and support that other professionals reasonably enjoy.

The CARE badge:

The CARE badge CIC is administered and managed for free by everyLIFE Technologies and, to date, over 90,000 badges have been distributed. All profits from the sale of CARE badges are given to care-related charities suggested by care workers and carers and overseen by a CARE badge CIC charity committee.

The CARE badge CIC is a Community Interest Company formed jointly by everyLIFE Technologies and Care England and, latterly, the National Care Forum with the sole purpose of providing the CARE badge to companies, charities and, other organisations.

• The National Care Forum (NCF) has been promoting quality care through the not-for-profit care sector for 25 years and has become a leading voice in the sector. The NCF ensures member interests are represented at all levels and are in constant contact with government departments, politicians, and the media to ensure your message gets across.

• Care England, a registered charity, is the leading representative body for independent care services in England. Working on behalf of small, medium, and large providers, Care England speaks with a single unified voice for both members and the whole care sector.

• everyLIFE Technologies provides a suite of care-planning software and apps, including the PASSsystem and openPASS, to the UK’s homecare, reablement and residential care sectors. everyLIFE is focused on serving the care sector and believes passionately in partnering with others to enhance the wellbeing of those receiving and providing care.

Genesis of the CARE badge:

The CARE badge was born on the 19th March 2019, while listening to Professor Martin Green, Chief Executive of Care England, highlight the challenges faced providing care and the unfortunate message that the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care inadvertently sends to those involved by only wearing an NHS lapel badge. The Chairman of everyLIFE Technologies, sitting in the audience, turned to his colleague and said, “We should work with them to change that.”

How to get CARE badges:

The CARE badge is sold to companies, charities and other organisations by the CARE badge CIC. Badges are not sold to the public directly. Badge purchasers are both from the care community as well as national corporations and organisations, such as supermarkets, manufacturers, service industries etc., interested in supporting care workers and the carers in their own workforce.

Badges are distributed for free to employees and customers i.e. badges are not for resale. Badge purchasers are also given the right to use the CARE badge logo in their marketing materials to highlight how much they CARE.

Organisations with few employees or customer outlets can donate purchased badges to the CARE badge “pool”. These will be distributed on their behalf to individual carers for free by the CARE badge CIC at care-related events.

Order details can be found on www.thecarebadge.org. Badges cost £1 plus VAT including P&P. There is a minimum order size of £100, with a choice of three fixing styles: butterfly pin, magnetic, and brooch to suit both care and non-care settings.

Find out more:

The website (www.thecarebadge.org) carries background, details of our growing community of partners, and how to order the CARE badge. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn are live with @theCAREbadge and #badge4CARE 

For further information please contact:

[email protected]

Social Care Reward 2019-20 Pay, Terms and Conditions Report

“Social care organisations need as much data and intelligence as they can get to help them understand how their overall pay and reward offer compares to the rest of the sector. This year’s Social Care Reward report provides a comprehensive picture of pay and reward data for essential social care workforce roles, as well as a tailored scorecard for each participating organisation to help them drill down into the facts and figures. It will help social care employers to understand how they are attracting the workforce that they need, how to highlight what may differentiate their pay and reward offer and will help to inform successful, informed engagement with and retention of their key asset – their social care workforce.”
Vic Rayner, Executive Director, National Care Forum

The Social Care Reward: Pay, Terms and Conditions 2019-20: Sector Wide Report – is based on findings from the Social Care Reward Pay, Terms and Conditions 2019-20 Benchmarking Study. All participating organisations will have full access to the report.

*Please note that non-participating organisations may purchase the report – please contact Agenda Consulting directly using the contact details below*

Social Care Reward is a benchmarking study specifically tailored to the needs of the UK social care sector. The study involved benchmarking the social care reward policies and practice of 82 social care organisations in the UK – with 62% of those represented by NCF member organisations.

The study was undertaken by Agenda Consulting in partnership with The National Care Forum, Care England and the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group. The study was shaped by a Steering Group.

The aim is to build a picture of the social care reward practices of social care organisations in the UK to enable participants to compare their performance with each other and to pinpoint their strengths and areas for development.

Why participate in Social Care Reward? 

  • Provides you with useful benchmarking information
    against which to compare your own organisation.
  • Participating in the Social Care Reward: Pay, Terms and Conditions Benchmarking Study itself is by far the best way to gain the most benefit, both in terms of the quality and breadth of the information you receive and in terms of cost effectiveness. In short, you pay less and get far more insightful information.
  • By taking part your organisation enjoys a significant number of benefits which are not available to nonparticipants:
    –  Your Own Organisation Scorecard – a detailed comparison of your organisation’s performance against your chosen peers on all measures in the study
    – Access to a suite of online tools to examine your performance in more detail and illustrate your performance graphically.
    –  Ability to track your performance over time.
    – Access to contacts from each participating organisation to share information and best practice.
    – Invitation to a Training Webinar providing the opportunity to learn more about using all the reports effectively and to network with colleagues from other participating organisations.

To find out more about the study and how to participate, contact April Ross, Membership and Communications Officer [email protected]

If you are a non- NCF member please contact www.agendaconsulting.co.uk, contact [email protected] or call Agenda Consulting on 01865 263720.

Innovation and Relationships

‘A hotel environment is just window dressing if the care is not there’

Hello all! I’m the new Policy, Research and Projects officer at the National Care Forum, and, at the time of writing, this is day 13 on the job! The last two weeks have been a whirlwind as I’ve got to know the team, attend several events and meet some of our members. The highlight, however, has been attending the Managers Conference at the beginning of last week. For those of you who don’t know, this event saw over 250 delegates, speakers and exhibitors – so it was the perfect event to get immersed in the sector and meet members.

I don’t know about any of you, but my experiences of conferences in the past did lead to some trepidation that I might be dragged into some sort of inescapable networking bunker, condemned to hours of small talk and hard sells. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. The levels of vulnerability, empathy and compassion from speakers, exhibitors and delegates alike was very encouraging to see and hear, and incredibly thought-provoking.

Besides the challenges to the adult social care sector as a whole, which were a recurring theme, two other themes stood out for me:

  1. The importance of not only being person-centred, but also relationship-focused when it comes to care.
  2. The need for innovation, not just in terms of technology (although important), but also in the way care is delivered more generally.

These themes flowed through most of the talks and workshops I attended, as well as the conversations I had with delegates at various points over the two days.

Take the quote I’ve used above for instance. This was said as part of Beth Britton’s very moving and powerful account of her own experience of the social care system as her family cared for her father who developed vascular dementia when she was 12. Her story changed the atmosphere of the room. She explored how family carers, families and care providers should be working together to ensure that care and support is person-centred and built on relationships. It is that, rather than a hotel environment that creates the best context for good care.

This theme of relationship came up again and again, whether it was Joanne Bosanquet speaking about the Teaching Care Homes programme’s aim to develop a geographically spread network of homes that demonstrate person-centred care and ways of working, or, Kirsty Woodard, highlighting the growing number of people requiring care who don’t have children or families to provide care, let alone that relational approach. And there were many other examples, both from speakers and delegates I spoke to. Everything I heard was a challenge to the way things have been done in the past, but there was a real sense in the room that the not-for-profit care sector is well placed to tackle these.

So, what is it about building good relationships that is so important? My take is that it is more than simple ‘co-production’ or ‘co-planning’, although that is one of the outcomes. It goes deeper. It means that providers, families and residents treat each other as humans rather than ‘clients’ or ‘problems to be managed’. It allows residents ‘to be known’ by care givers and vice versa; for their likes, dislikes, passions, characters, humour and all the myriad of things that make us human ‘to be known’ and cherished rather than simply managed. Maybe this is a little utopian, but it is certainly something I would like to see.

This is where innovation comes in. Martin McGuigan, in his session on changing perceptions of what people with learning disabilities can do, showed what innovation in care looks like when it is focused on getting to know a person. Community Integrated Care has created a Learning Disability Super League in conjunction with the Super League and the Rugby Football League, for adults with learning disabilities or autism. This is not typically thought of as care in the traditional sense, but it allows these adults to showcase their personality and skills, and what they can do for a change. It builds esteem and breaks down barriers for over 200 people with learning disabilities or autism. Rugby League might not be first choice of sport or activity for older people needing care, but imagine what could be done across the sector if a similar philosophy was adopted; of empowering people to do what they love and break through barriers.

Similar creativity and innovation came from Music for Dementia 2020 and Live Music Now, who showcased what music could do for people in care, particularly those with dementia, in building relationships by tapping into an individual’s identity and life experiences.

Finally, I also got the opportunity to see innovation in action! At the end of the conference I had the privilege of joining the NCF Rising Stars in visiting WCS Care’s Castle Brook care home in Kenilworth. This is an ‘innovation hub’, showcasing innovations, including technological ones, in a live care setting. I saw everything from circadian lighting systems, acoustic monitoring and an adapted bike track, to a resident’s cinema, shop and laundrette! The point of all this wasn’t innovation for innovation’s sake, but rather to create community, a level of independence and improve the quality of care.

So, it seems I have a lot to learn about the not-for-profit care sector! But what I’ve seen so far has been very encouraging. Despite the ongoing pressures of funding and recruitment and retention of staff, this is a sector full of innovation and optimism. I look forward to seeing more and meeting more of NCF’s members.

Follow Nathan on twitter @pixelatednathan