Rewriting our Induction Guide recently gave me the chance to review what’s changed in the 20 years since NAPA was registered as a charity. It is a mixed bag. In many areas’ things are recognisably better. In the past it was rare to find someone working at a senior level for a social care provider that had a responsibility for activity provision anywhere in their job description. Nowadays I can reel off 20 or more names of individuals that we work with on a regular basis. I believe a combination of NAPA’s influence and regulators looking more closely at quality of life issues has led to this change for the better. Policies are emerging that take a holistic view of activity being central to many aspects of care and not the exclusive preserve of a single employee in the role of Activity Coordinator.
Implementing those policies into practice is still a challenge for many but some are succeeding. In 1998 when I was working as an Activity Provider, I contributed a chapter to a book on the New Culture of Activity Provision. It detailed my 3-year journey to get the whole team on board, including our nurses, to recognise the importance of meaningful engagement to well -being as everybody’s job not just mine. Sadly, I still hear this story over and over again when working with frontline Activity Providers. On the plus side many more Managers are saying that they want the whole team engaging and are seeking ways to achieve it. We are working with some care providers who have made a real investment into this field and are beginning to reap the rewards through improved inspection ratings, better occupancy and improved staff retention rates. Their residents can only be better off as a result.
A source of pride for us in recent years has been establishing qualifications in Activity Provision. None existed until we wrote the qualification, developed achievable delivery methods and promoted it across the sector. We were awarded the Skills for Care Accolade for Best Endorsed Training Provider this year which was the icing on the cake. Better still is seeing the outcomes for hundreds of students who have gained credibility and confidence in their role. We now want to see at least one person in every care setting holding this qualification.
Over the years we have supported the growth of many innovative suppliers of goods and services and have delighted in seeing them become established across the sector. Organisations like Revitalyz, Oomph, Active Minds, Alive and StepChange, to name just a few, have helped to change how people think. Our formal partnership with Our Yesterdays has encouraged the use of digital technology at an affordable price. The growth of social media as a communication tool has been a real benefit to NAPA. We make good use of Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest – terminology unknown to our original members. Developing our website has been built into the workload as it is now the first port of call for anyone wanting to know what we do.
NAPA has been a driving force behind a number of national initiatives that are now embedded. We are proud to say that we were one of the first to support the formation of the My Home Life movement and continue to co- chair Care Home Open Day. Supporting quality improvement through Your Care Rating and serving on the Advisory Board for Reading Agency projects demonstrates the breadth of our influence and helps to meet our aim of being a ‘thought leader’ in the sector.
No charity could review its recent history without reference to income and fundraising. Many years ago, the staff and Trustees planned a strategy to be as self -funding as possible and not grant dependent. Thank goodness for that foresight as many small organisations have failed to survive local authority cuts and nationwide pressure on income for care providers. Our income today is almost equally split between membership and training. Careful housekeeping in house and tremendous dedication by the small team of 6 has kept us going in very trying times. We’ve had support in kind, and through sponsorship, from lots of the provider groups as well as leading national bodies like National Care Forum and Care England. Fundraising for us will always be difficult because we don’t, and won’t ever, directly provide services to cared for people. We are unique in supporting care teams to do the job but that is not generally seen as a positive reason to donate money by the general public. This doesn’t stop us from trying but we are pragmatic about achieving much income from this route. We are grateful to a recent London Marathon runner for her support and to the many care homes that have saved stamps on our behalf.
So, what of the future? Our simple aim to ensure that every person, supported by a care setting, has at least one quality conversation every day is an easy statement to make but a real challenge to achieve. We are lifted though by the advances of the past twenty years and, if we can survive the financial challenges, we know we can continue to make a difference. We set out to support care teams to enable people to have a meaningful life and believe that with the greater, frailty and dependency of those needing care that we have an even bigger part to play in the years to come.
NAPA Executive Director December 2018