Roger Waluube is the owner of Pelham House Care Home and Aspire Home Carers . These organisations provide outstanding care for people with mild dementia and people in need of palliative care. As well as his great work in social care, he is also known for his appearance on the BBC Panorama special titled ‘The Forgotten Frontline’. In this heart-breaking TV special, he opened up on the tragic events that saw half of his residents killed by corona virus and the lack of government support for care services like Pelham House Care Home.
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Roger’s career in health services started when he joined the NHS graduate scheme, following completion of a masters in Human Resource Management. Whilst at the NHS, he worked in a number of roles, some of which were management positions. After his 4-year stint at the NHS, Roger felt he wanted a change and so joined Ernst and Young, where he worked as a consultant on healthcare companies.
“I travelled a lot for work when I was at EY and truth be told, the role was very focused on finance”, explains Roger. He realised that he didn’t enjoy the financial focus of the role and therefore left the company. He used the knowledge he’d obtained over the years to work as an independent management consultant to NHS hospitals, a role he enjoyed and thrived in.
However, it wasn’t long before he had the itch for a change in direction again. “I really enjoyed what I did, however, when I started thinking about my future, I recognised that I wanted to own my own business”. It was at this point that Roger decided to buy Pelham House Care Home. “I wanted to be at the fore front of a business that was making people’s lives better and adding value to it, therefore owning a business within Social care was in line with my back ground and it meant I would continue doing what I enjoy the most”. Roger bought Pelham House Care Home in 2010 because he could see its potential and how he could make it better.
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Based in Folkstone, Kent, Pelham House Care home is surrounded by beautiful gardens and has rooms with stunning views of the sea. The care home specialises in mild dementia and has been assessed as ‘Good’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), a public body established to regulate and inspect health and social care services in England. Pelham House Care Home received a lot of positive feedback from the general public following the panorama show, “It was really nice to get that feedback because when you are in it, you very rarely step back and appreciate your own work. This showed me that we really are a good care home”, explains Roger.
Shortly after purchasing Pelham Care Home, Roger also founded Aspire Home Carers, a service that provides tailored home care and support to people who live in and around Folkestone, Hythe and the surrounding area. The company is focused providing palliative care and care to people with dementia, in the comfort of their own home.
However, running a social care business has not come without its challenges. Businesses within health and social care sector tend to be heavily regulated. Although necessary, it can often slow things down and perhaps outweighs a focus key business functions. When Roger first took over the business, he also quickly realised that staffing was a very important aspect and one that can be challenging at times. “At the end of the day my business is about people and the people around it. So, it’s really important to build those relationships and understand how your staff work”.
As a new business owner, Roger focused a lot on the customer service and operational side of the business. “Your desire to work in any capacity, within the social care sector, must be driven by the value of putting people first”. “However, I wish I had been more committed to developing my marketing strategy and to this end wish I had found someone I trusted and found convincing much soon than I did”.
Click here to donate to Pelham Care Home crowd funding campaign
Like most care services Pelham House Care Home has struggled during the Covid-19 Pandemic. ‘The Forgotten Frontline’ panorama programme explored the government’s handling of care homes during the pandemic, after it was revealed a resident at Pelham House was discharged back to the Home before receiving the results of his positive test. Following this, Pelham House lost 10 out of its 20 residents in the space of a 9 weeks after the virus spread to 18 residents, forcing nine staff to self-isolate.
“It has been devasting, especially watching people, friends and residents, you have cared for die prematurely”, says Roger. These devastating events put Pelham House Care Home in a dire financial position meaning it was 10 days away from closing. In an attempt to save the Home, Roger launched a crowd-funding appeal in order to help pay ongoing costs at the Home. In the end, Pelham House was able to receive short-terms funding from IWOCA, a peer to peer business lender. Pelham House is currently operating under capacity, housing only 14 residents out of the 22 that it has capacity to look after. This deficient is causing a loss of £15k-£20k per month, and it is likely that these financial challenges will continue if the Home is not fully occupied soon.
The future of Pelham House and the care services sector is a bumpy one especially given the ongoing concerns with underfunding in social care and the inability of successive governments to address this longstanding issue. There has always been a negative stigma attached to care homes and COVID-19 19 has made it even worse and more challenging. In the short-term, its likely that we’ll see a lot of care homes close their doors for good. However, in the long term, with the recent news of a vaccine, hopefully we’ll see some of them survive. Could it be time to shake up the sector? The pandemic has definitely made that clear. Perhaps care homes need to relook at their business model and ask if they are fit and ready for such a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) future. “If we don’t develop a more convincing business proposition and marketing strategy, together with strong leadership, we will have a difficult time changing opinions and public appreciation for our work”, explains Roger.
So, what’s next for this sector? Leave a comment with your views and suggestions on how to improve things.
If you would like to support Pelham House Care Home, visit their crowd funding site here to make a donation.