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Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Finalist 2013, The E-ON Best for Carers and Eldercare Award

Sector: Healthcare
Location: London
Employees: 3,197

Chelsea and Westminster NHS Trust  takes a proactive approach towards carers.  They define a carer as someone who looks after a family member, partner or friend that they live with who is elderly, frail or has a disability. The care they provide is unpaid.  The main objective is to create a culture where carers are supported and caring responsibilities are understood by colleagues and managers.

The Trust wants carers to be aware of what help is available and  know where to go within the organisation to receive the best support and advice available.

The Trust has done a lot of work with managers across the organisation to build a culture where carers’ needs are treated as an equal priority as working parents. It is vital that this key group of staff understands the legal and organisational issues connected with caring, and the employer’s obligations towards employees who are carers.

In the last year the Trust has become a member of Employers for Carers which has given staff access to a range of online support and information.  Additionally an annual programme of Lunch and Learn sessions for carers and managers has been planned and promoted to all staff.  The response amongst managers to these sessions has been particularly positive with one manager stating that the learning session has “exceeded expectations”.  The addition of managers to these sessions has served a dual purpose of maximising support for carers as well as helping to create a positive, ‘carer friendly’ culture.

As well as providing up to five days’ paid emergency time off to care for dependants, the Trust has a well established flexible working policy to support employees with caring responsibilities. The flexible working guide sets out a range of worked examples of the flexible working choices available but stresses that it is important for individuals to request the best arrangement to suit their caring commitments, and then discuss it with their line manager.

The Trust has incorporated support for carers within its existing policy provision in areas such as flexible working, but they also have a standalone ‘easy read’ guide aimed at carers.  The guide sets out facts about carers, including a helpful definition, and points out that caring and working can pose unique challenges to staff. It encourages employees to discuss their caring responsibilities with their manager and whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made to assist the individual to manage work and caring. It covers specific provision that the Trust has in place for carers, including emergency dependants leave, flexible working and career break.

A number of staff who frequently attend carers sessions are parents of school age children who are on the autistic spectrum or have a disability.  The Trust’s partnership with the Local Authority has given these staff access to high quality, employer subsidised holiday childcare for all of the school holidays (except Christmas).  The play service has a strong culture of inclusivity and will work to support children with a range of disabilities.

The Trust has increased its focus on wellbeing, particularly management of stress.  There are regular wellbeing events which are either paid for or subsidised by the Trust.  In marketing these events, carers are specifically mentioned as one of the groups specially invited to attend these events.  Information for carers has been made available via the fortnightly Benefits and Wellbeing newsletter along with other useful wellbeing information.

The Trust has also looked for other opportunities to raise awareness of carers as a group.  They are re-launching their employee award scheme, and in their marketing they have encouraged to staff to make nominations based not only on performance at work, but activities that staff may be engaged in outside of work, including carers (who have been specifically mentioned).

The Trust has evidence that this work has paid off.  In their most recent local staff survey,  68% of staff agreed that the Trust helped them to achieve a good work-life balance and 81% would recommend their department as a good place to work.