Be Caring is an employee owned provider of domestic social and healthcare support that was formed in the North East and now operates in Newcastle, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester.
Putting people before profit, it regularly brings together carers to help improve their lives. In the run up to Co-op Fortnight, they’ll be holding a series of coffee and cake sessions across the North. It’s a chance for their carer members to get together and talk about what’s important to them.
“At these sessions, we’ll be asking our carers how they want to be supported. We want them to tell us what they want. We need to know what’s important to them,” says Project Manager Sarah Robertson. What we’re about is providing quality care and making carers’ lives better – rather than just trying to make profit from care.”
As part of their efforts to do this, Be Caring has partnered with the GMB Union in campaigning for better pay for people in the sector.
“Were talking to MPs about paying carers by shift instead of call by call,” Sarah explains. “That’s what we are asking for when putting in tenders to local authorities, and that’s what we’re doing ourselves. As we don’t have shareholders to pay, we can put money back into service, to pay our people better.”
Investing in people also means that Be Caring pays for the things carers would be expected to pay for themselves at some private companies. “We give our people vouchers for Christmas and birthdays – and we provide free DBS checks, training and uniforms.”
The organisation also includes its colleagues in decision making and recently consulted with carers to choose a new colour for their uniform. “We discussed it at our coffee and cake sessions – and they decided that teal was the colour they wanted to go with.”
Bringing people together over coffee is something Be Caring also does for its service users at their Leeds branch. “They come on a Wednesday afternoon, once a month,” says Sarah. “We pick them up and take them to the coffee shop in our building, so they don’t feel socially isolated. Our staff sit and chat with them and play games for a couple of hours so they’ve got somewhere to go.”
For Sarah, it’s activities like these that make being part of a co-op so rewarding. “The difference between working for a privately owned care company and being part of a co-op is amazing. Being in a co-op is all about making a positive difference, rather than making money.
“That’s why I joined the care sector in the first place – to make a difference in communities, and to make a difference to providers as well. And that’s why we’re supporting Co-op Fortnight, so we can celebrate our carers and say a big thank to you all of them for their valuable work.”