A dozen care homes in Powys have been given a vote of confidence, after Powys County Council agreed a two-year contract extension with employee-owned provider Shaw healthcare, to run the homes until May 2024.
In 2019, Cardiff-headquartered Shaw healthcare agreed a lease to operate 12 local authority-owned care homes across the region – including in Newtown, Machynlleth and Ystradgynlais. The care provider also jointly-runs an integrated care facility with Powys Teaching Health Board at Glan Irfon in Builth Wells.
Shaw worked closely with Powys County Council to integrate more than 400 existing staff, following the transfer of the contract from the previous care providers in 2019, with the 12 homes becoming part of the wider Shaw healthcare network. Less than 12 months later, UK care homes were bracing for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which ushered in the most challenging period for the sector in living memory.
Shaw healthcare’s regional director, Cosmin Lemnaru, reflected on what has been an extremely challenging period for staff, residents and the families of people living in care homes:
“The extension of our contract in Powys is testament to the hard work our staff have put in, month after month, during what has been a difficult period for so many people. I cannot describe how hard our teams in Powys worked throughout the pandemic and the pressures it put on them, as well as residents and their families. Despite this, they kept driving forward and did whatever they could to keep residents safe, while maintaining a positive environment within our care communities.
“During the vaccination rollout, all residents and staff in our Powys homes received their first dose by the end of January 2021, several weeks ahead of the Welsh Government’s target.”
Mr Lemnaru also drew attention to examples of community spirit and partnership working during the pandemic. One home was contacted by a local company who provided a bulk delivery of hand sanitiser, while another received a donation of garden furniture from a local community group.
Wylesfield in Llandrindod Wells, was featured on ITV Wales news in December 2020, when it became one of the first care homes in the country to install a temporary ‘meeting pod’, which provided additional safe visiting space during the pandemic. As some restrictions eased, Prestemede care home in Presteigne marked the milestone of 50 years of delivering high quality care for its residents in May 2021. Staff held a celebratory afternoon tea for residents, albeit with family and friends joining in the fun online via Zoom.
Employees from Powys were also recognised in Shaw healthcare’s national Star Awards, where individuals from 60 facilities run by the company across the UK are recognised for their outstanding contributions. In 2019, activity champion Liz Thomas from Cartref care home in Hay-on-Wye, who works with people living with dementia, received the ‘Inspirational Individual’ award for her commitment to Shaw’s values of wellness, happiness and kindness.
The Awards were paused in 2020 due to the pandemic but returned in 2021, when her Cartref colleague, Amy Smith, won the ‘Outstanding Administrative Contribution’ award, being described as “a bright and intelligent administrator but also a great carer and cook, who will help anybody who needs it.”
Shaw healthcare employees in Powys have also benefited from other changes within the organisation. In 2020, Shaw set up an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT), which now owns 51 per cent of the company. The move has allowed the company to pay tax-free bonuses to staff, with each permanent employee receiving up to £950 since the EOT was established. Earlier this year, the company also took the decision to pay the ‘Real Living Wage’ to all staff, regardless of length of service, which saw salaries increase by between 3 per cent – 10 per cent from 1 March 2022.
New chief executive officer, Russell Brown, who has been key in making employee-ownership a reality, commented:
“Shaw is now the largest employee-owned healthcare company in the UK and we acknowledge that it’s our employees who have enabled us to maintain an excellent level of care, even during the height of the pandemic. This is why the decision to start paying the Real Living Wage to our staff in Powys – and right across the UK – felt like a natural progression, as well as a well-deserved recognition for their dedication and effort.”
Powys County Council’s Head of Commissioning and Partnership – Social Services, Dylan Owen, commented:
“Our contract with Shaw healthcare has been well received and hugely effective for the vulnerable and older people of Powys over the last few years and we welcome the opportunity to extend the contract further and to work in partnership with Shaw to develop our services for the better”.