Having begun life as a care operator when Brian and Jackie Richardson opened up their own home to support people with learning disabilities, it’s fair to say the ethos of care and compassion has been at the heart of Richardson Care from the very outset.
And from that decision in 1989, when ten people moved into the Richardson family home to get the kind of residential care not available elsewhere in the Northampton area, has spawned an esteemed care provider and now second-generation family business.
Run by Laura – who was ten years old when her parents turned to caring for those who needed them – and Greg Richardson-Cheater, the business now has six homes in Northampton; three for learning disabilities and three specialist brain injury homes.
And the family connection is ever-present, with Laura and Greg showing the confidence in the quality and standards they operate with one of their residents being Laura’s uncle, who has schizophrenia.
“We opened our home as dad was a teacher who supported adolescents who had learning difficulties,” recalls Laura.
“It really sparked an interest for him, because there wasn’t much provision back then. And through my uncle, who has severe schizophrenia, we saw it from the family side as well. The challenges that exist, the care and support people need. My dad always looked after him.
“But from there, from dad wanting to help, we realised there was scope for a family business. A business which is all about caring for people, because we do care.”
Greg, who began his career with Richardson Care on a volunteer placement in 1992, before becoming a senior support worker – going on to marry Laura and together building the business further – says: “I suppose you could say we’re putting our money where our mouth is with the fact that Laura’s uncle is here. People say residential care homes should be somewhere you’d be pleased to put your own family, and we’re showing that we are.
“When we offer a placement to somebody, we know that this person has parents, siblings, sons and daughters, and we take that responsibility to all of them seriously. We will look after them as best we can because at the core of everything is that we care about these people.
“Some of the guys in our learning disability homes have been with us for nearly 30 years, so it becomes an enormous family tie.”
Having grown from Brian and Jackie to now employing around 180 people across the six Northampton homes – the most recent of which, brain injury specialist centre The Coach House, opened in 2019 – the onus remains on retaining the ethos of care and commitment in the business.
With family involvement running throughout the business, in addition to the care provision – from Laura overseeing the interior design of the homes to Greg’s brother being involved as architect – the expansion of the Richardson Care is something Greg and Laura, working alongside operational and clinical director Jane Payne, are committed to getting right.
“We have got a lot bigger and we can’t be everywhere at once, but we’re still small enough to be around when we’re needed. If a family member wants to speak to me, they can do that,” says Greg.
“We’re involved whenever it’s appropriate, but you don’t want to micro manage people, you want people to have the autonomy to do their job. You have to trust and respect them enough to do that, and they have to trust us too.
“Quite often they know better than us anyway. We have some great people here, and many of our MDT have been with us for a long time, they are a brilliant team who we have been lucky to work with for a number of years.”
Laura continues: “For us, it’s really important that everyone is involved in care and in the ethos, whatever they do in the business.
“So, for example, when we deliver our crisis intervention training, that’s to all of our staff, whether you’re in admin, a cleaner, a maintenance worker. So if a crisis does happen, then everyone has a level of understanding so they can respond in a way that is appropriate.
“We’re really committed to developing our people, so that they feel they’re really part of the business they play a vital role in.”
With the ongoing growth of Richardson Care, and accompanying expansion of its workforce, recruitment continues at pace. Amidst the well-documented challenges of recruitment and retention within healthcare, the business recently carried out an evaluation of how to be the best possible place to work for its staff.
“We don’t have a big staff turnover, but haven’t been immune from the challenges of Brexit and COVID, and sadly have lost people because of both of those factors,” says Greg.
“We do have a lot of really long-serving people who have been with us for many years. Recently, we had two retirements, one was ten years and the other 25 years. But by addressing the need to bring in new people, we have taken the opportunity to look at what more we can be doing.
“As well a salary increase, we have looked at other ways we can be competitive. As a result, we have become more user friendly for people who have kids or family commitments by looking at the rota and seeing what we can do.
“For example, we have one member of staff who said she found it really difficult with the before- and after-school clubs, she was having to put her kids in at both ends of the day, which is a big cost. So by making adjustments, we hope that will really help.”
And as well as investing in its staff and the development of homes, Richardson Care also continues to invest in rehab provision for its clients. One recent introduction is the RehaCom cognitive therapy software platform, which is already delivering positive breakthroughs.
“As well as the care, we are really developing the rehab side of things,” says Greg.
“RehaCom is really helping with the psychology, in terms of the emotional support and cognitive rehab we can deliver.
“We’ve got a couple of cases where there are some specific memories that have been brought to the fore that people have brought up. And with one man, his sense of well being and worth has come from that because he can measure his progress specifically.
“You can see the incremental progress and that’s so valuable, to see and to know you’re getting there.”
While many operators look at geographical expansion once they establish a successful model of care, for Richardson Care, the decision to be base in Northampton is a very conscious one.
“We look at other companies that have been going along similar sort of time, they’ve expanded much, much more than what we have,” says Laura.
“But it’s just not what we’re looking for. We’re looking for manageable, we’re looking for quality, we want to be able to feel proud about what we’re doing.”
“We’ve been offered the opportunity for expansion more than once, on numerous occasions in fact,” continues Greg.
“But we find this is an ideal place to be based. It’s well situated, not too far from London, and people know us here, they know who we are. We were in Waitrose recently and we were talking to a lady who works there, she was asking about one of our service users who comes in but she hasn’t seen them for a while, so she was just checking they were OK.
“We never want to lose that role we have in the community by going elsewhere, it’s something we want to continue to build.”
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