Caring Support was pioneered by Monica Ryan ¹ and her husband Michael, following previous negative experiences with other care services that failed to provide the kind of high quality personal care and support that Monica and others needed; well trained staff were at a premium. They negotiated to go onto direct payments and managed their paid carers which offered a degree of self directed control as they got older, but were finding it harder to cope with employer responsibilities, complex paperwork and had serious concerns about training and pay of personal care assistants so began to search for a more creative solution. Drawing on her experience as a direct payment user Monica saw the opportunity for a new kind of service provider that could be owned and controlled by service users and their carers.


The cooperative model


The service itself works on a cluster model based on small groups of service users (no more than 15) matched with personal care assistants who are trained to work in a person-centred way. The cluster model allows close relationships to be developed between users and personal care assistants and means that when their own regular pca is unavailable service users have access to back up from other pca’s in the cluster whom they know and can trust.

Its cooperative structure means that Caring Support is owned and controlled by the service users, their primary unpaid carers, families and friends, and the personal care assistants themselves. All three groups are involved and supported as part of the cooperative principle and members from each group sit on the management committee. It is a Charitable Co-operative Society and has exempt charity status with the HMRC. This is very important for fundraising for its pastoral aims.


Community roots


Community is an important aspect of the cooperative ethos and the cluster model aims to foster and encourage circles of mutual support and combat isolation. Indeed one of the main aims of the organisation is to offer pastoral support to primary informal carers who can often suffer isolation and promote and help them to develop connections with other unpaid primary carers. The cluster model also helps to reduce anxiety and alleviate the administrative and financial pressures of managing personalised budgets and employing personal care assistants.


Supporting personal care assistants' continuing professional development


The promotion of caring as a profession is another fundamental aspect of Caring Support’s work. Caring Support has been working to develop a local employment strategy to recruit for its clusters and train its own staff. It has negotiated a partnership with CALAT Croydon Adult Learning and Training to recruit for and participate in their “Level 1 in Health & Social Care” course for those new to the care sector in the south and north of the borough. The introductory course aims to introduce prospective pca’s to care and to Caring Support's ethos and working practices. Over time it is hoped to put on these introduction course at all six buildings run by CALAT in Croydon. The aim is for Caring Support to have a pool of new recruits from the courses and then continue to work with new pca’s and CALAT to continue their professional development through further qualifications and training. It is hoped that these courses will raise the profile of caring in the community and support cluster development. By remaining locally focused, Caring Support also hopes to engage with the wider community and develop and build local investment for the future.


¹ Monica Ryan sadly passed away in April 2009