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Helping Hands blog

30 years of Helping Hands

This year marks our 30th birthday and we’re incredibly proud of the journey we have been on so far. From humble beginnings in the heart of Warwickshire to 98 branches across the UK – we are passionate about providing industry-renowned care that is heart-felt and tailored to the needs of our customers.

With over 40,000 happy families that have chosen Helping Hands as their care provider, we still uphold the family values that originated with Mary Lee and are at the core of our business. After all – we’re looking after your family, so why should you expect anything less than person-centred care delivered with expertise and compassion?

The family factor

Our story begins in the late 1980s in Cheltenham. Special needs teacher, Mary Lee, was regularly coming into contact with various social services teams across the Midlands due to her line of work. She soon realised that those who required care in their own homes were being sought out by external agencies instead of local authorities. Mary had a vision of giving people a choice and the support to remain independent in their own home, rather than leaving the place they loved and felt most comfortable. With this in mind, she decided to create her own care company – Helping Hands.

Mary says: “When I started Helping Hands 30 years ago, it was clear for me what I wanted to do: enable those who needed extra support to live independently at home. From the very first day, myself and the small team we initially had worked hard to ensure this happened for all of our customers.

“What I see now when I walk around the Support Office in Alcester or in our branches is a team that is happy and that has the friendly spirit that we’ve always tried to adopt. It is important to me that our carers are friendly and compassionate so that we continue to make a visible difference to our customers’ lives, and help them to live the life that they want to on their terms.”

In the very early days, Mary ran the company part-time from her kitchen table and worked with four local authorities to provide quality care for people in their home. Word started to spread about her fantastic work and the business grew very quickly – so much so that she needed larger premises to operate from. She initially moved the business to a small house in Alcester and worked from the front room, whilst letting the back room out for rent. With the business continuing to grow, Mary moved to premises above a hairdresser and started to build her team into a unit of five experienced carers who all wanted to give something back to the local community.

One of the first members of staff to work for the company was Samantha Grabham, who is now Live-in Care Manager for Worcestershire.

Samantha comments: “I first worked for Helping Hands as a live-in carer as I wanted to do a role that I could do alongside studying. I had worked in care before but in Nursing Homes, and I wanted to do one-to-one care where I really got to know the individuals I was assisting. My very first Helping Hands customers were actually a couple who I ended up supporting for over three years.

“I still remain with the company as I know I can make a difference, and that is a vital part of the role for me. Being a Live-in Care Manager is a very unique and privileged role as you are supporting families, customers and carers how you would want to be supported if the shoe was on the other foot.”

With the company continuing to develop, larger premises were still required. Mary bought a property in Church Street, Alcester – starting with number 8, then number 9 and finally, in 2007, number 10. After acquiring the premises in Warwickshire, Mary began to employ even more carers from the local area and developed a fantastic reputation for high-quality care. With her list of customers and carers ever-growing, she enlisted the support of her eldest son Tim Lee, who was studying at Cardiff University at the time, and her youngest son Ben Lee, who was still revising for his GCSEs. Both would help out in the office, with Tim even popping out to visit some of Mary’s customers when he was back during term breaks.

It wasn’t until 2007 that Mary took her well-earned retirement and Tim became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Helping Hands. Along with Ben, who became Chief Operating Officer, the company began to grow rapidly and has maintained this period of growth for the past 12 years.

Tim describes his mum as ‘brave’ – he was just 19 when she started the business and he remembers thinking how impressive it was that at the age of 42, she gave up her career to pursue a business that she really believed in.

Tim comments: “Over the years, I’ve gained an understanding of all aspects of running a home care business and how to meet the expectations of our diverse range of customers. Our passion for care comes from that fact that it is in our blood; I haven’t known anything different since starting with the company when I was 19 years old. Through the experience I gained during the very early days of Helping Hands, I am able to truly appreciate the difference our carers can make to the quality of life of our customers and their families.

He continues: “What we have created stems from the passion and care my mother wanted to instil in others, and I feel honoured to continue the great work that she started. Our philosophy and culture have always remained the same, with family being at the heart of everything we do. Our customers, carers and teams are all treated like family and we believe in supporting each and every one of them.”

Our people matter

Since our inception in 1989, Helping Hands has always enabled people in need of extra support to live independently within their own homes. Our carers are compassionate, empathetic and treat our customers with the utmost dignity; they are truly devoted to providing the best care that they can. Whether it’s a 30-minute call once a week or a live-in carer that provides round-the-clock assistance, person-centred care is one of our key principles and what makes our experienced team of over 3,500 carers the best in the industry.

Our carers are incredibly important to us and without them we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thanks to our team of skilled trainers, we’re able to deliver award-winning training to ensure that all of our carers are equipped to deal with a variety of conditions and needs when looking after our customers. We are also recognised as the first and only UK home care provider to be endorsed as a Centre of Excellence by Skills for Care.

With around 50% of our customers living with a form of dementia, we ensure that all of our carers are trained in the practical and emotional skills to deliver outstanding care for people living with the condition. Our Dementia Specialist, Jayne Vale, describes why she decided to find out more about the condition and how she supports others.

Jayne explains: “Having worked for Helping Hands for over 15 years, I became interested in dementia care when I came to realise that the individuals that I was supporting were often misunderstood. It was also apparent to me that the families of those living with dementia were often mis-informed or had very little knowledge of the condition that their relative was living with. This spurred me to look into the different types of dementia and how it manifests differently in each person. I went to various conferences and training courses to find out as much as I could, and I quickly became known for my growing knowledge of the condition within the company. This led to Helping Hands asking me to become their Dementia Specialist – which I was absolutely thrilled to accept.

She continues: “Family members often say that their loved ones are not there anymore, and I disagree with this. It is the same person, but in their mind they have gone back in time. Instead of thinking of them as ‘lost’, I believe that they need to get to know their loved ones again and learn to live in their ‘reality’.”

It’s not just our care teams that keep the cogs turning. Just down the road from the original premises in Alcester is our brand-new Support Centre – home to Finance, Recruitment, Property, New Business, Human Resources, Marketing, Quality Assurance, IT and Directors. Their work involves anything from recruiting carers, being the first point of contact for those who require care or supporting existing carers and managers, ensuring policies and practice meets the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) guidelines, creating engaging content for social media and keeping all of our properties in tip-top condition.

Ben says: “I officially started working for the company in 1999 but had been unofficially helping out long before that. We’ve come a long way since those early days, but we still uphold our compassion for supporting people where they feel most comfortable – in their own home.

He goes on to say: “I strongly believe that if we are to continue to offer our customers the very best home care service, we need to remain the employer of choice for all care and office staff. By being the company that the very best people in our industry want to work for, we can offer our customers the very best carers and service in their own homes.”

There’s a tremendous amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to keep us at the forefront of industry-leading home care. Every single one of our nearly 5,000-strong workforce has their part to play in making a real difference to people’s lives, regardless of their role within the company, and this really underpins what we do.

One of our core values is our focus on people and this comes straight from the top. For the last two years, our now Chairman Tim Lee has been recognised as one of the highest rated CEOs in the UK and won the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award.

Tim says: “Rather than purely a personal approval, it’s a real testament to the training, support and working environment here at Helping Hands, and how our whole team works together so that our customers have the highest standard of care within their own homes.”

Tim is the only person in our industry to be honoured with a CEO Award two years in a row and it’s even more important because it’s come directly from our employees. The Glassdoor accolade proves how important it is to creative a positive culture where employee and customer voice is given the platform it deserves, and when it is, it’s powerful.

Our caring nature

Unlike many other home care providers, our roots enable us to be small enough to care yet big enough to handle any situation. From our first days within the industry, our work centred around domiciliary care – also known as visiting care. This could be anything from light household duties, to helping customers get up, washed and dressed ready for a new day. The majority of our customers were in their senior years, with only a handful being under the age of 65.

As the business grew, so did our ability to cater for a variety of different needs and conditions. From ages 18 all the way to 100 and beyond, we cater for anyone in need of support at home, providing much more that traditional domiciliary care. We now have an extensive workforce of live-in carers who are able to live with customers in their own homes and constantly be on hand. Not only does this provide peace of mind for customers and loved ones that their care needs are being met, it enables them to retain independence and live the life they want to.

As well as offering either visiting or live-in care, we cover many care options to suit the situation or needs that customers may be living with such as palliative care, respite, dementia care, complex care and support for younger people. With additional support needs comes the requirement for a team of highly-skilled clinical nurses, who enable our customers with more complex needs to receive the very best care whilst being surrounded by their home comforts. This can be anything from a neurological or spinal injury, tracheostomy care or living with the after-effects of a stroke.

The next 30 years

So, what does the next 30 years hold for Helping Hands? With 98 branches local to thousands of people in England and Wales, we will open our one hundredth branch later this year – another cause for celebration! Having so many different branches across the country means that we can reach more and more people that are in need of a helping hand.

Tim is now Chairman, with our former Chair, Andy Hogarth, becoming our new CEO. Andy’s Helping Hands journey began when his own mother was looked after by one of our live-in carers up until she sadly passed away.

Andy says: “My mum was living with dementia and was gradually getting more and more confused. The thought of her having to go into a nursing home just filled me with anxiety and it wasn’t something that I wanted for her. I’d never even heard of Helping Hands and I didn’t realise that you could arrange for a carer to live with you in your home to always be there to support you.

“Once my mum’s carer was in place, she was absolutely brilliant and provided wonderful care to her in her final days. The fact that she could stay in her own home before she died made such a difference to her and the rest of the family.

“When I was offered the opportunity to initially be Chairman for the company, I jumped at the chance. Everything that Helping Hands stands for really resonates with me, and I truly believe that every single one of our colleagues plays a key role in enabling people to stay in their own home and retain their independence. Regardless of position or role, all of us are key to changing peoples’ lives and making a difference, and I want us to continue to do this for even more people across the country in the next few years. I’m thrilled to be leading the next stage of the company’s growth as CEO and excited about what we have to offer in the coming months for both our customers and staff.”

The only other thing left to do is to continue what we’re doing – providing exceptional care to maintain our customers’ independence and making our beloved company a great place to work.

Our philosophy is simple: to provide quality support and care to enable people to remain in their own homes and pursue their chosen lifestyle, regardless of age, disability, or geographical area. This is as true today as it was when Mary started the company 30 years ago.

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