Being a Wellbeing Team carer is so wonderful – we just love our jobs!

There’s a revolution going on in Abingdon – and one that this group of women could not be happier about.

They are part of a ground-breaking and innovative pilot scheme commissioned by Oxfordshire County Council that could have far-reaching consequences for the delivery of care to older and vulnerable people in the county – and even the country.

This is the Abingdon Wellbeing Team which seeks to put care at the core of everything it does – from delivering care to the heart of the local community to caring and empowering its workforce.

This trial – along with a similar one in Wallingford- is part of a £100,000 project being managed by specialist Manchester company Wellbeing Teams working in conjunction with charity Community Circles.

The revolutionary bit means this band of carers only work within a five-mile radius of their homes, they work seven hour shifts not split shifts and earn £12 per hour – one of the best rates in the country and more than £4 per hour above the national living wage.

Another revolutionary aspect of the Wellbeing Team is that it works on self-managed principles, with a team coach and buddy system so that the team can make decisions in the best interests of the people they support and be more flexible and responsive to individuals’ needs in the process.

Wellbeing Teams provide help with things such as washing, dressing, or medication; but, crucially, they also support people to do more of what matters to them and to stay connected in their communities.

The way carers are recruited to the job is also innovative and award-winning. There are no job interviews and CVs. People are asked to attend a three-hour workshop and are hired based on their own personal values matching those of the Wellbeing Team’s core values.

Each of the carers have full DBS criminal record checks and safety checks and receive training and development.

Kate Terroni, Director of Adult Social Care at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “This brings a refreshing approach to care and, having met the team and seen their infectious enthusiasm and how much it means to them, I am feeling inspired that there is real potential to expand this system. Our aim is to always provide the highest quality care possible in Oxfordshire and help people live independently at home”

DeeDee Wallace, Senior Strategic Commissioning Officer at Oxfordshire County Council, added: “It has been inspiring to be involved in the development of this innovative model of care for Oxfordshire that focuses on people’s assets, strengths, and what really matters to them. This is true for both those delivering and receiving care. The ethos of Wellbeing Teams is empowerment - it shines through in the good news stories we are already hearing about the older people they are supporting and the fantastic staff team they are building.”

Councillor Lawrie Stratford, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care added: "It's our aim to ensure people live safe, healthy lives and play an active part in their communites. We want services that enhance the quality of life in our thriving communities and this method of delivering care ticks all the right boxes for people receiving and delivery care. I’m incredibly interested to see how things take shape.”

Wellbeing Founder Helen Sanderson explained: “We believe that it’s time for a radical rethink of the care system, rather than just making tweaks to a system that’s simply not working. Research has shown that people working in self-managed teams are more satisfied than those working in traditional teams, which is why we have brought self-management to the Wellbeing Teams model. We were inspired by Buurtzorg in the Netherlands, which has more than 10,000 nurses in self-managing teams – with excellent satisfaction rates for people and staff.”

Now meet the team:

Jo Hoskins is a full-time carer. She proudly holds on to her book of appreciation – something each member has. Its pages are filled with the thoughts of fellow team members on how important and valued she is to them all. They tell her what a difference she makes to the team dynamic and the special qualities she has.

With a background in counselling and psychology, it’s clear she loves to help people but this is her first carer role. “It just feels really lovely to be part of this.”

Drama teacher Gemma Woollard beams as she runs through her work history; how she loved making announcements on the tannoy at Tesco and how she was once in an advert for Asda with X-Factor judge Sharon Osbourne.

She says her life experiences have made her tough yet a real people person with bags of empathy. Born with a genetic condition, Gemma had to have major surgery on her legs when she was 18. She says her year-long recovery from that made her a strong person.

As well as being a mum of four children - two of whom have special needs – she has been a support worker for people with learning disabilities, a teaching assistant for special needs children and is still a school drama teacher.

By becoming a part-time Wellbeing carer she can still spend precious time with her family, still teach drama and, importantly, use her caring skills to enrich the lives of those in need in her local community.

She explains: “I want to do something that I’m really passionate about.

I am so excited to be doing this job and something that will really help people like my Nan.”

Lauren Bond, Wellbeing leader - The mum of one, soon to be two, from Charlbury is a trained behaviourist and says she ‘fell in love with the concept’ of the Wellbeing Team because of its values.

Grace Webster, Trusted Assessor – a pivotal role which she finds fascinating and rewarding in equal measure. Like a matchmaker, she has the initial conversation with clients to establish what kind of person they want to care for them. She shows them videos of her team, so that her ‘customers’ can gauge personality and their interests. And then Grace ‘pairs’ them up.

She says: “It’s such an inspirational job. It’s where I want to be and the job I want to do. We are going to make such a difference to people’s lives. There’s great chemistry between the carers and the people they care for.

Joining Grace as a Trusted Assessor is Meghan Heley, whose background is occupational therapy in the NHS.

Itua Iyoha, Storyteller – she recently completed a Masters in Business Studies, and spreads the word about Wellbeing via social media. She writes her own blog on veganism and was attracted to the team because of its core values. She works caring part time.

Laura Arlott is the community circles co-ordinator. As well as caring she connects people in local community groups. For instance if one of the Wellbeing clients has had an interest or hobby in the past that they’ve lost or a pastime they’d like to pursue, Laura will work hard to connect them to a local group.

One of her current clients is a man from Abingdon who recently suffered a stroke. He was feeling socially isolated as he spent a lifetime working night shifts and slept during the day.

The Wellbeing team has worked with him to ‘reset’ his body clock to daytime activities. They ensure he is bathed, eating well and exercising to improve his mobility and have put him in touch with a chess club – the game being one his big loves – so that he can meet and socialise with people with similar interests.

Dawn Partridge has a history of care and acts as mentor. In fact her care background started at the age of five when she joined St John Ambulance.

After studying adult nursing at university, she has worked in care homes and spent 11 years in a care role at Abingdon Hospital. She also jokes that she had a short-lived career as a driving instructor before going into domiciliary care.

She says her previous roles didn’t have the social network, strong team bond and mutual support that the Wellbeing team has. She says she knows her team is there for here in good times and bad and that she is valued.

Jane Barrett has found her caring role very rewarding, especially working in such a supportive team. She said “It’s not like working for me.”

Hull University graduate Louisa Reardon completes the team. For her it’s her first venture into the care profession having previously gained experienced in a retail setting.