Bluebird Care is one of the fastest-growing homecare companies in the country, with almost 200 offices around the UK delivering 20,000 customer visits every day. Offering the highest quality service to customers is their raison d’être. At the heart of the operation is Bluebird Care’s Director of Operations, Fiona Williams, an authority on care and widely respected industry figure.
Starting her career in care working for NHS Scotland in mental health services, Fiona’s passion about care flourished after working to bring people back into the community following long periods of hospitalisation. She later decided that she wanted to have a bigger impact on the people she cared passionately about and on the future of the industry. Fiona gravitated towards a leadership role and held senior positions for a variety of care organisations before moving to Bluebird Care in 2012 as Director of Operations.
Fiona is driven to improve the core of the care sector, “our sector focus sometimes leans too heavily towards regulation. While regulation is extremely important, I feel there is often a risk that the intensity of this focus does not always fully consider the people we care for or the people we need to bring into the sector to deliver care and support, and I want to change that.” says Fiona.
By developing relationships with regulators, politicians, the media and the general public, Fiona is ambitious to address the challenges for the social care sector head on. “Staffing and recruitment is one of the key challenges the industry faces” says Fiona. “That’s why we’re focussing on creating strong career pathways for our staff, and working hard to change people’s perceptions of care as a profession. It can feel like the media and politicians promote a negative narrative of care work, when there’s a really positive story to tell about the care sector, the exceptional people that work within it and the people we help every day in our jobs”.
Fiona has recently introduced a new pilot project aimed at rewarding care workers for their hard work, and encouraging people to consider a career in the industry. Above all, Fiona wants to make working in care a profession that is akin to nursing or teaching. “People are going to be living for longer in this country, and developing more complex care needs. As a business, we need to be able to respond to this and make sure we have the right staff who are trained to provide care and support”. And Fiona is keen to emphasise the opportunities a career in care can offer: “there’s actually a really strong career pathway in the care sector. At Bluebird Care you can work up to being a manager or even run your own business if that’s what you want to do, and we’re here to support that”.
After 25 years working in care, Fiona can still be surprised about the impact the profession can have on those who dedicate their lives to helping people. “I recently spoke with a school leaver who, having never thought of working in care before, did work experience with one of our businesses and I was shocked at the impact it had on her. She had realised such a passion for care, and for providing a lifeline for the people we are privileged to help every day” adding “It really brings it home how important the care worker’s role is and how dedicated they are to their job.”
Fiona believes that some of the changes being brought in by the Government and regulators, such as the Care Quality Commission’s new fundamental standards which come into effect next year, will have a positive role in making sure the industry operates at the highest standards. However, it’s important that changes happen seamlessly to ensure the minimum disruption for the sector. At Bluebird Care, service quality is the top priority and Fiona is determined that the business will be the provider of choice in the sector by providing the very best care for customers and promoting care as a profession. “We all have this passion, and we all have this internal drive at Bluebird Care to be the best we can be,” says Fiona. “I get up every morning and I feel driven to go into work and be a champion for what’s best in this industry. I feel like we are genuinely making a difference.”