Voyage Care Voice – S2E1 Part 1: Amanda Griffiths and Andrew Cannon kick off season two of Voyage Care Voice!

After a successful pilot season of Voyage Care’s first ever podcast, we are excited share our second season with everyone! Relaunching as Voyage Care Voice, our podcast will be showcasing real people with real insights.

In this season, we’ll be focusing on how important quality is in the social care sector. To kick it all off, we’re hearing from Amanda Griffiths, Director of Quality and Andrew Cannon, Chief Executive Officer. They’ll be discussing their opinions on the importance of quality, company culture and diving into our Quality Checker initiative.

Great quality care and support

As the leading provider in the sector, we are truly committed to providing the best quality care and support possible. We constantly look for ways to improve the care we deliver, so it enables the people we support to live the lives they choose; lives which are fulfilling, meaningful and happy. To learn more about our great quality care and support, please visit our commitment to quality area.

Our Quality Checker initiative

We believe that people best placed to tell us what great quality care and support looks like are those who have experienced it themselves. This is why, in October 2016, we launched our Quality Checker role. A Quality Checker is a person we support who works with our Quality team to visit other services. They speak to people living at those services to find out what is working well, and what we may need to improve on. They see things that others may miss, and can make meaningful suggestions that will have a significant impact on any future implementations we make. To learn more about our Quality Checkers, please visit our webpage.

Catch-up on Voyage Care Voice

Are you all caught up? Visit our podcast hub to find all previous episodes, find out how you can listen on the go and enquire using our helpful form.

Can’t listen right now?

Read the transcript of the podcast below.

Amanda:

Hi, so I’m Amanda Griffiths, and I’m the quality director at Voyage Care, and I’m here today with Andrew Cannon, our chief executive officer.

Andrew:

Hi, everyone.

Andrew:

Why do you think quality is so important?

Amanda:

I think that it is important really within social care because it should underpin everything that we do. I think in order to understand why it’s important you have to understand how we’ve got to where we are now. So, it’s not something that Voyage Care have invented. We do it exceptionally well and probably better than anybody else, but actually, where we are, we are the point where we have involved the most information which is relevant to what we do from years and years of research and development across the industry. So, if you look at social care, we do deliver healthcare, but if you look at social care, how we’ve got to here, we’ve taken the learnings from multiple different national reviews, evidence based reviews, and we’ve fed that into everything that we do. So, it’s important that if we don’t have a quality statement and we don’t define quality for ourselves, then we can’t deliver quality.

Andrew:

I agree, no, I agree Amanda.

Andrew:

You can’t inspect quality into a system, you can’t add it at the end. It has to be woven throughout it and designed into it right from the outset. I think that’s something that you do very well and we do very well as an organization. I mean, I think at the heart of it, our purpose is why are we here, why do we exist, and quality always comes first in that we’re here to deliver great quality, care, and support. And we put our money where our mouth is in terms of the way that we structure incentives, in the way we have meetings, it’s always the first thing that we speak about. But, I get asked a lot about… because our ratings are so good and because we compare so well to a lot of the sector, I get asked a lot about how do we do it and how have we done it, and it’s really hard to answer.

Andrew:

I feel like I could spend a whole day or a whole afternoon talking about your team distilling complex guidance into really straightforward policies and procedures, or I could talk about the way we’ve used system, or I could talk about the culture and the way we seek to collapse hierarchies, or let’s talk about the way we work incredible hard to design ways off working such that people feel like they have a voice. We can speak about any one of those things for hours and hours, and measuring, and the quality questionnaire, and the things that we measure through that, which I’m sure we’ll speak about in a bit. So, I think it’s incredibly important but sometimes it can be quite hard to pin down.

Amanda:

Yeah, so we have a quality framework which is not a policy. It’s not a procedure, it is more a statement, and it covers off a lot of that that you’ve just described. So, we’re very clear within the team, when we’re looking at what is quality care, we’re very clear that quality care is composed of three main parts. It is safe care, it is effective care, and it gives a good experience.

Amanda:

If you wanted to shortcut on it, you could if you want take out the experience bit. But, I often say, “It’s a bit like if you want to go on a diet and lose weight. You could go on a Cambridge diet or a packet diet, it would be perfectly safe, it would’ve passed all the regulations, it would be safe. It would be effective, which is the second part of what we say quality is. You would lose weight. But actually, that third key and equal part, the experience, it wouldn’t give you a good experience. Three sachets, three times a day, you’d rather have your steak and chips.

Amanda:

So, we’re really clear. It has to be safe, it has to effective, and so you have to get all those outcomes that we can measure, but people have to have a really good experience as well, and that’s what’s really important. Actually, we concentrate on the safe and the effective so we can measure that, but for the people that we support, what they’re interested in more than anything else is, is it a good experience? Am I happy when I wake up and do I have a good day? So, I think that’s a nice, really simple way to look at what is quality and how do we define it.

Andrew:

Yeah, that’s really good. That’s really good. I suppose I feel very driven about this as well, which is I feel very passionately that, as I know you do, that you look at people with a learning disability die on average 20 years earlier than people without a learning disability. And the obvious retort to that or hypothesis is to go, “Well, that’s because they’ve got loads of other conditions or comorbidities,” but the really alarming thing is, no, no. Even after you adjust for all of those things, they die 20 years earlier, a whole generation earlier.

Andrew:

For me, that speaks about how the society we live in values the lives of people with a learning disability, how it thinks about them, how unless you have somebody with a learning disability in your family or you work in this space, that it can be a sort of huge sector that’s largely hidden from public view.

Andrew:

One of the things I’m very proud of is how driven we are to make a difference to that statistic, to give people longer lives, to give people lives that are meaningful, fulfilling, and happier. For me, that’s speaks to quality because that’s what when we have our quality checker initiative that you and the quality team run, which I think is wonderful, which is people going around as experts by experience and looking at auditing the services and giving their own perspective.

Andrew:

Of course, that’s the perspective they’re going to have, is this good and interesting and fun, and can I access the community, and am I playing a vital part as a citizen, am I voting, could I go get a job if I wanted, could I move into education? So, measuring those things and understanding those things, and having those things at the front and center of what we do as a part of the quality framework is for me, it’s more than we’re an organization and this is important to us, and these are our objectives. It’s vital for so many people’s lives and it’s vital in terms of changing people’s perspective about what people with a learning disability are capable of.

Andrew:

I mean, it’s not for me or for us to pontificate about what they want. This is why it’s so important that they have a voice to really ask them, what’s quality for you, what would it look like? I think we’re getting better at that. I think it’s something we do really well through things like quality questionnaire, and quality checkers and stuff.

Amanda:

Yeah, no, I agree, absolutely. I think there are so many boxes as a provider we have to tick. There are the regulations, there’s all the legislation, there’s all the best practice. It is never ending to just do that. But, in the absence of listening to what the people we support say and what matters to them, we will never deliver quality, we’ll just tick boxes, and we’ll be compliant with things. That’s what we’ve always sought to do is to be not just compliant but to really go for that outstanding quality.

Amanda:

But what I really love about the people we support is they tell us what matters to them.

Andrew:

Yeah.

Amanda:

I’ll never forget, Andrew, you telling me about when somebody, I think it was a person that we support in the southwest, told you what they wanted to do with the swimming pool that was in the building. And actually, we can laugh about it, but to him, it was his home and it was what he wanted in his home, which is what we do every day, we go and choose wallpaper, and we choose carpets. But, it’s really important, and that’s why when we have people who we support in the buildings or when we go into their homes, that engagement is amazing because some of it might not be achievable. So, yes, we could never have a pet zoo in a swimming pool, but we can understand and listen and hear what matters. So therefore, when people say, “We want pets,” then yeah, we can achieve it. It’s listening, the actual communication and what we hear, we have to listen very carefully because that’s what matters to the people we support.

Amanda:

There is nothing better than thinking that people are happy, and that is what matters. It goes back to that having a good experience. We could keep everybody really safe, never have any accidents. But actually, if everybody’s miserable, we’re not a quality provider are we? We have to listen.

Andrew:

Yeah. I agree, completely agree. And I think that level of ambition is reflected in the way we think about what’s important.

Amanda:

Yeah, no, I agree. I think something that I really value for this organization is that we haven’t focused primarily on all the regulation and all the legislation. We do that as a must do, as a business as usual, but actually the things that we really focus on and put a lot of energy into are those things that matter to the people we support. When you look at some of the leaps and bounds that people have taken because of the requests that we’ve made for people to come along and be involved. So, at the point we advertised for quality checkers, we never ever envisaged that we’d get people come along, doing the quality checker training, and then move on into paid employment. We never envisaged that, but to see people progress because you’ve given them a window of opportunity to do something that we take for granted, it’s amazing, and it’s very, very fulfilling in everything we do.

Andrew:

I agree, I agree.

Company culture

Amanda:

So, Andrew, tell me, how do you think culture impacts quality.

Andrew:

For me, the culture bit is, I mean, it’s so vital. It’s so vital because it underpins absolutely everything. There’s a saying, isn’t there, which is that culture eats strategy for breakfast. Meaning that you kind of, whatever’s going on, whatever you try to impose on an organization, if the culture won’t accept it or it’s not consistent with the culture, it just doesn’t get done, or you revert to the previous way of doing things.

Andrew:

I think that the organization feels like one which is very honest and open and transparent, which is well connected to purpose. I know that when we’re recruiting for the managers and senior leaders, my key things are to find people who have curiosity and humility. Those are the two qualities that I would look for the most.

Andrew:

So, the way I think about it is that everybody has a job to do and we have to do it to the best of our ability to deliver our purpose, and nobody is more important than anybody else. It’s just that we all have different jobs to do and we have to execute it excellently with our purpose in mind.

And I think that’s mega, mega, mega important actually, because what it does is it connects you to the frontline. I think it enables you to understand what people are going through. It’s why I regularly to support worker in service. It’s not to be an industrial tourist, it’s not for marketing, it’s to genuinely get curious about what the barriers that exist for a support worker to delivering our purpose.

Andrew:

That’s why I do it regularly, and that’s why I continue to get huge value from it. I can talk about culture for so long. What you want is a culture that’s open and transparent, where people feel like they have a voice, and they’re going to be heard.

Amanda:

I really agree with you. Whilst we really operate at scale and we are a large organization, there is absolutely no horror for a manager if either Andrew or myself were to phone them up, it’s just accepted that it’s a given that that’s what we do. And similarly, when it’s reversed, I have absolutely no concern if a manager or a deputy or a senior rings or emails me. In fact, I prioritize the contact that I get from people who work in our homes and services because I really value the fact that they are happy to contact us. And actually, I can see that that for them is a better way of working.

Amanda:

I mean, not everybody does because of the training and education that we do, most people know where to go, how to work. Some of the processes and systems that we have in place to support managers really enable them to do their role and to do it well. But, we’ll all have a time when we don’t know the answer or we can’t find the answer, and I would much sooner they rang somebody who could give them the answer straightaway than they took half a day looking for it.

Amanda:

I think that is what makes us extra special as an organization, that people, even if they’ve never spoken to us before feel that they can email Andrew or pick the phone up to myself. That is a really special place to work because you feel as though you are working alongside people rather than I’m not here just to tell people what to do. I’m sharing that burden with them. I think it was really interesting during some of the really busy days of COVID when we were running the on call system 24 hours a day, and it was just a given that I would be part of that. And do you know something? It was not a hardship at all to have night support workers ringing me at two o’clock in the morning. In fact, you could hear the relief in their voices. And I would rather that than people struggle. I think that is driven from the top really. There is no top and bottom of the organization, but there is a difference in our responsibilities.

Quality Checkers

Andrew:

So, Amanda, quality checkers, super important and a subject very close to my heart. But, go on, talk about what is a quality checker.

Amanda:

So, the quality checkers are really important people in this organization. They’re people that we support, who we have invested in so that they can play as equally an important role as the rest of the quality team. They are in essence members of the quality team. They have their own days when they go off and do their training, and they do their standardization and make sure they’re all operating the same. They really work alongside the quality auditors, and they are the people who talk to the people that we support in a service, peer to peer. This is a peer exercise.

Amanda:

So, instead of somebody who is employed as a quality and compliance manager, this is somebody who lives in a service themselves, that therefore has got the ability to ask those really telling questions around, are you happy, do you like your dinners, do you like the carpet? It’s very interesting some of the feedback. We would never pick it up on an audit because this is about what matters to people and what people’s experiences are.

Amanda:

So, they’re all really well trained, they all have a very clear training program, where they have to understand what their role is, they have to be committed to the role, and where necessary, we provide the support so that they can undertake that role independently. So, our IT team have supported people with programming questions, so that when we have people who perhaps are not able to verbalize, they can still ask the questions using a digital device.

Amanda:

They are located all around the country, and yeah, they play a great role. And I know they’re really looking forward to COVID being finalized, put to bed, so that they can be out and about again.

Andrew:

It’s one of the big things about COVID for me that’s been a source of frustration, which is our quality checkers, been sat around, not quite kicking their heels because they have lives to live, but wanting to get out and about. Yeah, it’s been really, really frustrating. I think they’ve got much bigger roles to play for us. We’d like a lot more quality checkers in the organization.

Amanda:

Oh yeah.

Andrew:

A story that I tell regularly, give people a sense of the impact that it can have on people’s lives is… A young lady who used to have 60 hours of support a week for us, and became a regional quality checker. She was fantastic at it, grew in confidence, grew her skills. She then became a national quality checker. We don’t do a national, regional split anymore, do we? But, we did in those days.

Andrew:

She became a national quality checker, and she was so good at that, then she became a recruiter for us, and then got a job working for us, being a recruiter. She said to me, and it’s like heartbreaking, and I struggle not to get emotional, she said to me, “I’m buying a house. I never thought somebody like me could buy a house.” I think every time I say that I nearly cry. “I never thought somebody like me could buy a house.” Then, the next step was now she’d really like somebody to share that with, and a boyfriend, and stuff like that. And you think, my God, if I never did… I didn’t do it directly, it was the team in Nottingham that did that, but if I never had any other indirect impact on anybody in my career and that was it, I could die happy. That, for me, was just incredible, and reinforces all those things that I talk about in terms of how humbling it can be and impact it can have on people’s lives and how it’s life in technicolor and all those sorts of things, you know?

Amanda:

But then, there are other examples as well. So, we have a couple of young men who live at opposite ends of the country. We’ve got one in Somerset-

Andrew:

Yes.

Amanda:

One in Nottingham, who have met each other, and for all intents and purposes, fallen in love through being quality checkers, and who just I know that COVID has been difficult for them, But, prior to the pandemic, they were planning, and their support workers would make sure they met in the middle regularly. I think they have aspirations for when that relationship could become more permanent. They would not have met had we not taken that step. So, quality checkers has never been about introducing this format to benefit us, this is not about that.

Amanda:

At the same time as we did the quality checkers, we did a lot of work around how we support people to get back into work. This is all about giving people a life that because of their disability, they’re not entitled to by society. Actually, we’re really keen to break those barriers down and make sure that people have the same lives that we all have. If that means having a job, buying a house, having a relationship, we take all of that for granted.

Amanda:

Actually, we have the opportunity to change people’s lives by delivering quality care and support. We have to grab that every day. We have to break those barriers down and make things happen.

Make An Enquiry