Richard Smith, Managing Director introduces the company -
I have been involved in recruitment for many years, through managing services for companies such as Blue Arrow Personnel Services and then branching out on my own. One of my businesses was a small agency for temporary staff, supplying care staff to learning disability services in Somerset and North Somerset. My wife was working in special education, working with 14-19 year olds who had a learning disability and other complex needs, some of which would include autism. She also has an autistic brother.
I have always been very ‘hands-on’ and used to work shifts rather than let homes down. I therefore had personal experience of the quality of local services, and I felt that there was a lot more that could be done. Eventually we discussed seriously whether we could/should try to do something ourselves. That led to a business plan, a re-mortgage of our family home, a bank loan, and the purchase of Holly Tree Cottage in late 2003. The first person moved into Holly Tree Cottage in the Spring of 2004. At that time there was no great aspiration for expansion. We thought 2 or 3 homes might be possible. However, as we grew, we found local authorities as far afield as the West Midlands and London were interested in our services and we gradually developed a reputation for being able to work successfully with people whose autism led to complex and ‘challenging’ behaviours.
We worked extensively with Wenn Lawson who is autistic himself and spends about 6 months each year travelling the world; teaching, consulting and promoting the rights of autistic people. We continue to work with Wenn, who has now become a friend to us all. As we grew, we developed more and more expertise ‘in-house’ and we now have various full-time training and support roles helping staff teams develop creative, innovative strategies to work with the people we support.
Our services incorporate Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered residential care homes. These services are across Somerset, North Somerset and Wiltshire.
There are 3 aspects of what we do that provide me with such personal satisfaction:
- The work our teams do in support of some very complex autistic individuals is incredibly powerful and can be life-changing for some of those people. I know just how committed our staff teams are in the work they do and it becomes vocational for many people, hence staff coming along to people’s birthday parties and other events in their own time.
- I also get enormous satisfaction out of the development of people who work for us. To now have a number of our homes managed by people who joined us in the first instance as support workers is fantastic and we have a Management Development group of staff being trained towards future management roles.
- To know that we have also been able to help the families of people we support is so important to me.