Residential care: home, not a home

Simon Whalley, owner of the Outstanding-rated care home Birtley House,
always told me that going into residential care should be a positive choice,
and that people should think of this as moving home, not moving into a home.
When you move home, you usually look at what’s happening in the local
community, so that you can connect with it as much, and in as many ways, as you
want to.  

So why should it be any different in residential care?  For the good ones, it isn’t.  Nightingale House, for example, a care home
in South London, opened the Apples and Honey nursery on its premises last
September – a move being followed in other care homes around the UK.  There are daily joint activities for the
children and residents, including exercising, reading, cooking and eating
meals.  So, everyone feels part of the
same community.  There are health
benefits – both direct and indirect – through this kind of increased social
interaction: when Bristol-based St Monica Trust opened its doors to a group of four-year-olds
over a period of six weeks, residents were found to have improved moods,
mobility and memory.  A Nightingale
resident described being with the children as “it’s like being reborn”. And
there are economic benefits, too, through gaining additional rent and sharing

It doesn’t have to be nurseries.  Birtley
House has a sculpture garden between April and June each year, which attracts
hundreds of visitors. Over Christmas, Abbeyfield homes open their doors to
local older people who are still in their own homes but don’t have
companionship, providing activities, meals and connection for hundreds of
people.  This goes back to the mission of
Abbeyfield’s founder, Richard Carr-Gomm, who wanted to combat what he saw as
the crippling loneliness experienced by older people.  

And care homes are increasingly opening their doors to the wider
community and inviting people in. One of the great innovations in social care
in recent years, I think, has been the setting up of National Care Homes Open Daythis year, it’s on Saturday 21st
April, and as it happens, the theme is ‘Linking Communities’.  It’s a great opportunity for residential care
to make a noise about all the great things it does, not only as places for
people to live, but as places that make a vital contribution – in economic and
social terms – to their whole communities.

keep waiting?

It seems to me that so much of social care feels like it’s waiting: it’s
waiting to be asked to the integration table, to be invited to talk with the
NHS, to have its workforce recognised for the value that they bring.  At the same time, social care actually models
much of the integration and joined-up working that other sectors, especially
the NHS, talk about so much.  Well,
perhaps social care should stop waiting, get on with doing what it does so
well, make a bit more noise about it and use that as the springboard to invite
others to join in.  Go residential care!


Sorkin is National Director of Systems Leadership at the Leadership
Centre.  She works extensively with
social care commissioners and providers and is a Trustee of Papworth

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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