Chris's big interview with the Brighton Argus- 2013
Q. What is your big idea and what benefits does it bring to the region?
It's not really our big idea, it's an idea put together in partnership with local authorities. They identify Younger Adults with Learning Disabilities, Physical Disabilities and Mental Health issues who are poorly placed in residential care, or at home with families and in some cases they may be homeless.
We fully endorse and support the Government's vision to have a society where everyone is respected and included as an equal member of the community and for people to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. Our goal is for people to become as independent as they possibly can and to be able to care for themselves.
We meet individuals in need of a home and support, and then show them properties that we believe may suit their needs. These properties have been supplied by landlords who we work closely with and with whom we have a good working relationship. We then liaise with the local authorities and if the property is appropriate, we work with the individual to provide a package of care that meets their needs. We then put this package to the local authority for funding, if funding is agreed we offer the placement.
In doing so we are providing quality care to individuals in this region, ensuring they have a role in their local community. We are also providing permanent respite for families and friends of the individuals we care for. Avens Ltd currently provides care, stability and support for 42 customers in East Sussex enabling to live the life that they desire.
We provide training and employment for 78 members of staff, both as carers and in our offices. We also provide investment opportunities for landlords who are interested in collaborating with us to enable us to provide our customers with safe and secure tenancies.
Q. How have you funded your service or product?
We have a financially stable business that has developed slowly and organically. The funding for the provision of care comes from the local authority and the funding for the properties that we operate from comes from the landlords we work with. However at Avens Ltd we are very proactive in ensuring the staffs we employ are the right quality and we have invested a lot of time, money and resources into our own training department.
Q. How have you created competitive advantage?
Primarily by listening very carefully to what our customers say they want and charging a competitive rate that is cost effective yet yields a consistent, modest return.
Great staff training...The care industry is a heavily regulated body and a well trained staff group is essential to the service that we provide. Since 2001 Avens Ltd has had its own in-house training organisation, which are City-and-Guilds accredited.
The innovative training system was one of the first training centres to offer E-Portfolios on the internet. Thus the training is available on a 24/7 basis. This strategy is a cost effective way to meet the regulated requirements within Health and Social Care. The effective use of IT saves time, paperwork and crucially money.
We have two dedicated trainers, both are certificated PTLLS (preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector), both are qualified assessors and internal verifiers, and they are both in the process of completing their CTLLS (Certificate in teaching in the lifelong learning sector). We require all our staff to train towards level three QCF diplomas in health and social care.
As far as I am aware we were one of the first care organisations of this size to bring training in house to the level that we are able to offer it. I consider this to be a huge advantage over our competitors.
Q. How do you communicate with your customers?
We rely on word of mouth to spread the word about the standard of service we provide. Of course we also have a website and a regular point of contact, both in person or by phone at our headquarters however the simple answer to this question is 'the same way we communicate with anyone'.
Due to the nature of our business our staff provide up to 24-hour support that is tailored to individual needs. Through person centred plans, our customers can express choices and preferences about their needs and be fully involved in every decision about their life. Each customer can carry their care plan with them to assist them with communicating what is important to them and for them, if need be.
Q. Describe the financial success you have achieved.
In a time of recession, when many private health and social care providers are struggling, we at Avens are maintaining our operating profit. This is due to close working relationship with East Sussex County Council, in particular the Social Services Team and a great Finance & Administration department at our Head Office in Crowborough, led by our Finance Director Di Waghorn. The business is extremely stable which offers a tremendous advantage to our customers. Importantly we are committed to those we care for and if the product is good, people will want to buy it! It's testament to the service Avens Ltd provides that our customers are loyal and stick with us.
I consider setting up our own in-house training system to also be a financial success. Although it was a significant outlay, the advantages, including the financial benefits have long since been repaid.
Q. What's your big vision for the next three years?
We hope to continue to build on our reputation and to maintain a good working relationship with East Sussex County Council we also want to carry on achieving excellent Care Quality Commission (CQC) results. We're hoping that our most recent inspection result will prove to be a sound basis for a planned business expansion. We have set ourselves an optimistic target of a 30 percent expansion over the next three years. Although we have hopes of expansion, it is important to us not to lose the company's caring ethos and to maintain a high level of care.
The Directors of Avens Ltd recently nominated Development Director Jennifer Prus, who has a background in both health and social care and public relations, onto the board. Jennifer's role will be to facilitate the company's target growth by seeking opportunities to expand both the supported living and residential care aspects of the business. We hope in doing so she will establish useful contacts within the care industry and with private landlords who may be interested in an alternative option when it to comes to renting out their property.