social business for urban development
In a sense, this should have been my first post, introducing the new business and explaining where it’s at. But that would have been boring. This post is less a public article and more a note to self, close friends and advisors on the progress of our nascent business, Three Sisters Care. As I become more proficient in using WordPress, I’ll work out how to put this into a different strand or create a timeline so that it can be followed independently. (If you know how to do this, please let me know.)
Without repeating the ‘About’ section too much, my sisters and I are in the process of starting a new company in the adult social care sector. Our core service will recruit professional care workers and send them out to care for old people in their own homes across East London. Three Sisters Care Ltd finally moved into our new offices in Cable Street in the second week of January 2012. This mural on the side of our building depicts the famous Cable Street Riots (which I did not start).
We are currently a straightforward company limited by shares and though it has taken us months to prepare everything and employ a Registered Manager, we are still at least a couple of months away from receiving our license to trade (from the Care Quality Commission) as this is obviously a very strictly regulated industry. As soon as our Care Manager’s CRB comes through (good indication it’s arriving next week), then I’ll be applying for the license and we’ll then have two months intense marketing to get our first customers.
There are many small privately owned care agencies all across the country and we will begin just like all the others. This is mainly because we are three sisters, putting in all our saved and borrowed capital and combining all our skills to make a small dream come true: economic independence. Any small increase in social status and community recognition would be a bonus. Any large impact on the business landscape, let alone on society as a whole, is beyond the aspirations of my sisters and beyond the comprehension of our wider constituents and stakeholders.
It is an aspiration solely held by me, the CEO of Three Sisters Care – I am humbly planning to create the John Lewis of the care sector. By this I mean that we’ll eventually be a worker-owned co-operative and we’ll be a benchmark for sustainable social care provision. At the moment, we have one care worker, one of the three sisters, who will take on 1 or 2 clients alongside her role as Deputy CEO in which she is responsible for recruitment and marketing. We have three or four other qualified care workers who are keen to join our team, but until we have sent off the CQC application, we cannot hire anyone as they need to check our recruitment processes conform to protocol. Most care workers are qualified to Level 2 in care and have poor literacy skill sand almost no business understanding. This is the reason we are not starting out as a co-operative as many people have advised me – it would be a train wreck. We need to inform and educate our workers first.
In order to apply for the CQC license, we need our insurance in place, we need to have our software management system in place, we need a registered manager and statement of intent – basically we need everything ready as if we are about to start trading tomorrow. This has all been ready for nearly six months, when we hired our Care Manager – that’s how long it has taken for our Care Manager’s CRB disclosure certificate to come through. (Criminal Records Bureau certificate lists all offences and only those with no offenses may work in many professions, such as care.)
It’s very rare that a CRB takes this long, and we have just been unlucky. This has held us all back, the Care Manager who we officially offered a position to in August 2011 pending her CRB disclosure, has had to get another job in the meantime. Although she already has a disclosure certificate from her last job, we have to apply for one ourselves through the CQC. My eldest sister and I (the two of the three sisters who will be working full time in the company) have also subsequently found ourselves without any income since October 2011. With all the best planning, government services and their innate bureaucracy can still screw you over, so main lesson, use the most pessimistic estimate public servants give you – it will probably take them that long. We can’t even chase or complain officially because apparently the CRB gives a six month timescale for completing the checks and it hasn’t been six months yet. I’ve been working with CRBs for 15 years and have never known it to take this long. This is a special CRB under the name of the CQC and everyone knows this is the first step to starting a new business. You’d think in the current climate of encouraging enterprise, they’d prioritise these checks and prevent motivated talented individuals from sitting round twiddling their thumbs for six months. In addition, my own CRB came through within 6 weeks, but has since expired (it has to be dated within six months of the application to CQC) and so I’ve had to apply for one again. Each CRB application costs £64.
So that’s why we’re still stuck in the early pre-start stages. When we tracked the CRB application last week we were told that the certificate had been despatched – you can’t imagine how excited we are. Things should start getting more interesting from next week.