Simple principle, challenging job; Care is quite a simple thing. You find out what people want, you are honest with them and you do what you say you can do - that's the ethos of care company boss Diane Reynolds, who spoke to Joanne Welford.
From the age of 12 she volunteered to serve meals at a day centre for older people, playing cards and games to keep them entertained and going shopping for those who couldn't quite manage it on their own.
Fast forward 36 years later and the Yarm mum is still in the industry - and she's going strong.
For Diane, 48, heads Teesside based Enable Care, a company which provides care services for people in their own homes.
She leads a 140-strong team of carers looking after 400 clients across Teesside, people who need all kinds of support from help with getting dressed to those with more complex needs including dementia and stroke sufferers.
Two years old, the business has a healthy turnover and plans for future expansion, possibly through a franchise model. It was also named North East Care Employer of the Year at a recent industry award ceremony.
The care industry is a huge and complex one to an outsiders' eye but to Diane, it is quite simple.
"Care is quite a simple thing. You find out what people want, you are honest with them and you do what you say you can do," she says.
"The fall down is finding a workforce that supports that. You can skills-train people but you can't change their mind set.
"Being a carer is one of the hardest jobs to do, you have to want to go to your job every day, you often work on your own, you've got to stay motivated, you need to go and do your job and have a smile on your face. If it is just about the money then you are in the wrong job."
Diane trained as a residential social worker and then went on to take qualifications so she could move into management.
Before launching Enable in 2010, she headed up Teesside based charity North East Centre for Independent Living - an organisation dedicated to improving the lives of disabled people, their carers and families.
Making the move into a business of her own, she says, was quite a big step - but one she's glad she made.
"In 2010 the charity wound up, I was planning what to do next and I decided I would go into the care industry.
"The charity had a small group of family carers, I wanted to be able to retain that continuity of care for those clients and I built on that really.
"We provided 300 to 400 hours of care a week when we started, we now deliver 1,800 hours a week."
Word of mouth generates most of Enable's caseload - something Diane is really proud of. The company has private clients and those who receive local authority funding.
"It was a big culture shock," she says, of starting the business.
"Running the business I want but with all the things that I still hold dear and recognising also that time is money. I have to focus on the business side as well.
"I am absolutely glad I did it." Softly spoken she might be, but she is also very driven and extremely knowledgeable about the intricacies of the industry she champions.
She's also very passionate about ensuring Enable provides the best care that it can - hence the company mantra.
"People are individuals and have the right to live fulfilling and independent lives.
"Therefore the mission of our company is "the best care for every client, every day".
"This is not just words, but a philosophy we live by."
An ageing population with increasingly complex care needs coupled with difficult austerity measures faced by local authorities up and down the land means the care industry as a whole is facing challenging times.
Residential care in particular has also attracted the headlines of late - the abuse of residents at Winterbourne View near Bristol was exposed late last year and left the country shocked.
Castlebeck, the company behind the home, has just gone into administration.
So Diane says demand for care services in clients' own homes is growing.
"Drivers are concerns around residential settings, also that there are younger people with early onset dementia driving to stay at home and also maybe about cost - staying at home is a cheaper solution.
"Home care is one of largest changes.
"On one hand we have austerity measures in councils and on the other side the need to recognise that people have more and more complex needs and looking after them costs money.
"To upskill staff, there has to be rewards financially."
So what's next for Enable? Diane is hoping to expand. The company, she believes, has the correct model to go forward and it is looking at developing franchise options to take it beyond Teesside.
"As a workforce, we are all learning all the time."
FACTFILE Name: Diane Reynolds Age: 48 Lives: Yarm Family: Recently remarried with a grown up daughter, a granddaughter, two teenage sons and a step son.
Likes: I like to run when I get the time. I've done the Great North Run and am doing it again this year. Dislikes: Bad manners!
Mantra: It is about respecting people, celebrating difference and recognising it is a good thing to be different. Often when it comes to people who receive support there is so much focus on what they can't do, it's about enabling people.
DIANE REYNOLDS: "Being a carer is one of the hardest jobs to do. You need to go and do your job and have a smile on your face. If it is just about the money then you are in the wrong job." Pictures By PETER REIMANN
gazettelive.co.uk/buyaphoto ref: 01354482
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|Publication:||Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)|
|Date:||Mar 19, 2013|
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