Meadowlark Care Home Case Study – Care Worker’s Story

“If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be able to still work in care”: care worker reflects on changes in the care industry over the last decade

Renaissance Care Group, which manages Meadowlark Care Home in Forres, has recently undertaken a review of its cultural practices with detailed input from staff across all disciplines.

The refresh has come in response to the exhaustion felt across the sector following the pandemic, and in order to retain and attract more talented staff into care. The group which currently employs 1,200 people across the country has implemented a flexible approach to working, as well as a host of health and wellbeing initiatives such as an exercise platform DanceSing, and a supply of period products in each staff bathroom.

Natasha Bagley, a carer at Renaissance Care’s Meadowlark Care Home in Forres, has worked in the care industry for over a decade and thanks to the changes has regained some work / life balance allowing her to pick her kids up from school, and tuck them into bed at night.

Natasha said: “As we neared the end of the pandemic, it was clear that increasing numbers of carers were leaving across the sector after the pandemic. The challenges we faced over the past few years, teamed with cost-of-living and fuel prices rising, as well as traditionally long hours resulting in a lack of flexibility, it was clear changes needed to be made within care to help keep staff within these very essential roles.

“If it were not for Renaissance Care’s determination to listen to what carers need as shown in the recent staff survey and cultural review, I would struggle to continue to work in care. For me, the new flexible approach to our working week has alleviated childcare issues, meaning I no longer have to count on others to help pick my kids up or put them to bed.

“Although Renaissance has always tried their best to be flexible with our hours, I often found that the industry standard 12-hour shift patterns left me missing out on important moments for my children. Now, I have the flexibility needed to be there for them whenever they need me. My son loves it now that I can pick him up from school and I can be there to tuck them in at night – it may seem like the small things but it’s these things which matter the most in life.

“Greater work-life balance is so important. As a working mum, my job does not finish when I clock out. I still have meals to cook or other household tasks waiting when I get home. Minor changes to my schedule like working split shifts allows me to fit these things into my day without adding to my load. The changes give us such a strong ability to be flexible with our time. If we want more hours, we can have them. We have reclaimed power over our schedules in a way that the care sector has never seen before.

“When I started in care, I was the youngest carer at my home by about a decade. But, with the care industry moving towards a modern way of working, I hope this will change. You can now fit a career in care around things like a college course or any other pursuit. This will only strengthen the development of the next generation of carers, bringing in fresh ideas and revitalising the sector for years to come.

“It is not just the working practices that have changed. Renaissance champions the idea that good care starts with self-care. Focusing on looking after my physical and mental wellbeing allows me to give the best version of myself to the residents I care for. The introduction of wellbeing initiatives like the new DanceSing programme is also great for us all in the homes, giving us a chance to have fun and let our hair down while continuing to deliver the best personalised care in the industry.

“The introduction of period products in bathrooms is also a huge help. Sometimes this job can be extremely fast-paced and stressful. It takes one less thing off our minds and allows us to focus fully on our residents.

“The one thing that has stayed constant about working in care over the last decade is how rewarding the job is. Being a carer is more than just caring, it is laughing and having fun with the residents, it is about forming relationships and brightening up each other’s day. Even on the hard days, I cannot see myself doing something different.”