To celebrate Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week 2021 (10-14 May) we are highlighting different Inspirational Leadership Stories to inspire colleagues across the Northamptonshire health and care system. Each day we will focus on a different story and find out how they connect with the daily themes of #EQW2021.

Tuesday 11 May – Being Recognised and Rewarded
Working Carers Network

Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) and Northamptonshire Carers’ Working Carers Network has put a great deal of support in place for working carer colleagues across the county, and many of these have been enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Working Carers Network was highly commended at the HSJ Awards 2020 in the ‘System Led Support for Carers’ category. The judges had the following to say about their entry, ‘Working Together to Support Working Carers’.

Jen Kenward, Experience of Care Lead – Community, Primary and Integrated Care
“NHFT and Northamptonshire Carers have done some fantastic work around developing their Carers Network and looking at how they support working carers.

“The things that really stood out to us were that very genuine system engagement across health, with the local authorities and the voluntary sector, with the ambitions to do more than just sort out their own house. They really thought about what the wider impact of their work could be and how other people could benefit from following the same type of models as they were using.

“There was a fantastic discussion around how all of the staff networks within that group had a parity of esteem – so they all had equal funding, they all had people with time released in order to actually support the network effectively, and they’d really thought about some of the intersectionality across those networks and how the issues with equality have come to light during the pandemic, and previously.

“It really spoke to the importance of a staff network that worked in tandem with other networks. There was a real clear sense of absolutely no one being left behind, so it was great we had a Chief Nurse presenting as part of that group, who had very challenging caring situations – it was really fascinating to see how they would fit along other carers within the hospital and be very genuine with their support. Having someone in that executive leadership role saying openly that they were a carer was giving permission to people of all levels within the organisation to say ‘actually that’s me too, and I need some support and help’.

“I think what we saw in the way they were working with their voluntary sector partners and the local authority presented some really strong examples of what can be achieved to support staff in the most challenging times. Previously Carers UK data showed that 1 in 7 of the general population were carers, but 1 in 5 people working in the NHS were carers – actually we’ve now seen from the Staff Survey that’s 1 in 3 so this is a really significant group of people who we know over the last year have been working phenomenally hard and are probably absolutely exhausted from their day job, and are still managing to balance work and care.

“They are a really important group for us to target and I know the judges all felt really strongly that this is a project that we would like to pick up and share with more people widely as well. I think it’s really clear it was a really hard decision to make on our winners.”

Dame Philippa Russell
“We know that Covid19 has actually increased dramatically the number of working carers within the population. We know that combining work and care can be exceedingly challenging, and we know that working isn’t only about money (although that is vital). It is about wellbeing and a sense of belonging and developing your own career pathway, and this was an entry that really pulled together all of the strands of what actually makes a difference to a carer who is working.

“The networks and the engagement with the wider community as well as with the systems actually within the project was really impressive. I think also that this is an initiative that could be replicated elsewhere. It offers exciting opportunities but also structures a models which recognising working carers as valued to the team but also as leaders in their own right, changing the working environment and maximising outcomes for everyone. This was more than an enthusiastic initiative, there was a measurement of the outcomes and satisfaction of the carers and those they were working with – it’s exciting that others can learn from it.”

Ros Spinks
“One of the things I found so refreshing and exciting about this project was it was a very pragmatic approach – it wasn’t about where do you work, who do you work with, it was very much about if you are a working carer and you are working across our system, we will support you. I think that’s not always the case with partnership working so I found that very refreshing and very exciting. You can see how this could be spread far and wide so well done to them.”

Watch the HSJ Awards 2020 video below to find out more about the Working Carers Network.