Client Spotlight: Wilf Ward Family Trust – Creating a culture of excellence

The Wilf Ward Family Trust provides supported living accommodation and residential care services for people with learning disabilities across the Yorkshire and Humber region. While it may not be a household name in the rest of the country, it is a much loved institution in the area and was set up through the generosity of a local family.

It was established in 1986 with a focus on respite care but its remit has since expanded. As well as its care services, it runs a café staffed by people living with learning disabilities and has holiday homes suitable for those with disabilities. It employs around 800 people and has a £20m turnover, mainly from local authority and NHS contracts.

Paul McCay, chief executive of the Trust, joined it in 2013 and has in the last year, led the Trust through a major restructuring. Previously the Trust was formed of seven regions, each one registered with the Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) with a single Registered Manager covering up to 15 services across multiple sites.

Mr McCay felt the organisation would work better with a key Registered Manager role – which the CQC views as crucial – overseeing no more than eight services. “It did not feel quite right”, he says. “There could be disagreement and because the registrations were quite large the Registered Managers needed a lot of deputy managers under them – they had the relationships with the staff and with the residents. I wanted to push the registration down a level.”

This was not without its challenges. Suitable managers had to be appointed and often trained at each home, and a consultation with staff undertaken. Mr McCay says they “learned the hard way” of the importance of having someone in a management position to avoid being left in limbo. “At one point the CQC were coming out to inspect and we did not have a Registered Manager in post at one service”, he says. In the end, the CQC were supportive of what the organisation was trying to do: the organisation’s CQC pages are now a sea of green with good and outstanding ratings. “Hempsons were in the background and advising us on how to do the restructuring and how to consult with managers”, he said.

He was keen that all of the Registered Managers should go through the same training – and here Hempsons was able to help as well. “That consistency was very important to me. We did it in groups of eight and I attended every session”, he says. “We had a two solicitors running the training. We covered HR investigations and staff management in the morning and then we went through the CQC regulations line by line in the afternoon. The sessions really brought the regulations to life. We were able to give the managers food for thought, which was important as many of them were new to the registered manager role. Some of them were going through the registered manager interviews with the CQC and they were able to talk about the regulations and what they could do in certain situations.”

Another aspect of the training focused on insurance related issues and health and safety. As well as the normal risk of accidents. Mr McCay is aware that his staff also work with people who can be unpredictable and one of his aims is to improve care for particularly complex patients who have little communication. Many residents could benefit from less of a “hotel model”, he suggests, with an
increased emphasis on what they can do for themselves, supported by staff.

A key concern for him is attracting, rewarding and retaining staff on the ground. With low rates of pay across the social care sector, the Trust is actually a reasonably good payer. But this not always easy as local authority reimbursement rates reflect low rates and, on occasion, he has even been told that he won’t get increased local authority funding because his staff are paid relatively well.

For Mr McCay, the job has many elements. “In my position I am expected to know contract law, employment law, property law, and to be a counsellor, a recruitment consultant and a marketeer – as well as keeping an eye on government policy and how it affects us!” he says.

“One day you could be facing a judge, the next an angry relative and the next the press – the job has become quite a complex beast! But when you go out and see the guys we support and the quality of care we provide, we realise why we are here.”

“We can’t rest on our laurels,” he says. “We need to get more outstanding ratings and show that it is not a blip and demonstrate that it is cultural. I want us to be outstanding 365 – every day should be outstanding, not just the two days over three years when the CQC is in. That’s our core strategic push in the next couple of years.”