The admissions team invest a lot of time in developing our contact base of social workers, solicitors, case managers and other professionals who can refer people to our homes. We accept people from across the whole country, so we’ve created a national network over several years. This is enabling us now to reach out to as many people as possible who may need our support.

Richardson Care was established over 30 years ago and the provision for adults with acquired brain injury has increased significantly in the last seven years. It has taken some time to build up our network of contacts but our aim is to grow at a sustainable rate.

A good proportion of our referrals come from word of mouth, which is an endorsement of the rapport and relationships we have built, but primarily the outcomes that we achieve for our service users.

I have been at Richardson Care for nearly six years, working as part of the admissions and referrals team and a year ago, I became admissions and referrals manager.

The team’s office is based at The Richardson Mews, a 25-bed residential care home for people with brain injuries.

This means that we get to see first-hand the progress that our service users are making. It also enables them to build positive relationships with members of the team who are not their direct care-givers.They feel part of a big family.

My background is working for Avon Cosmetics. I was there for over 20 years, and while it’s very different, it’s also the same in some respects. You appreciate the value of client service, and become accomplished in selling a service too.

I was also involved in a lot of events work at Avon, and that is another area of our business here and in the admissions process.

When we receive referrals, it’s hugely important that we assess whether the person in question will fit in with our current population.

If you’ve got someone who potentially would not fit in well, it could be a disaster waiting to happen and be hugely disruptive to everyone else in the home. So we’re very mindful of this being a person’s home, a place they can feel happy and safe.

I am involved in getting together all the information needed for a referral, which can be a complex process requiring contact with several parties.

For example, we need full disclosure of the individual’s current conditions, living skills, cognitive abilities, mental capacity, risk behaviours and medications, as well as their medical and forensic history.

If we feel that they would indeed fit into our community, we arrange an assessment. Usually the member of the admissions team who has been dealing with the case, along with the appropriate home manager, willvisit the individual concerned and their support team.

We travel all over the country to complete assessments and if we then feel that we can support that person, we make an offer by letter. The offer letter details the level of specialist care provision and associated costs.

Once we know someone is joining us, we’ll make efforts to get their room ready just as they’d like.

We recently welcomed a resident who liked butterflies, for example, so I went out and bought butterfly bedding and asked the maintenance team to put butterflies on the wall. We want them to feel at home and we’re proud of our personal touches.

Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, we are still working hard to develop what we do.

We continue to take referrals, offering assessments over the phone or via a video link, and we’re reviewing the situation on a weekly basis.

These are fast-changing times and we have had to adapt. I am still in the office to cover the phone and take any referrals, but the rest of the admissions team are with the residents, doing activities like painting, bingo and quizzes.

We’re very aware of the potential impact on the residents of not being able to have family visits or go out to do different activities. We’re all pulling together to help and the atmosphere within the homes is amazingly positive. We’re still providing structure and routine while being creative and coming up with new activities to keep everyone’s spirits up.

In ordinary circumstances around this time of year, our residents might go on holiday for a week, whether that’s going back home, staying somewhere in the UK or even going abroad, as one resident does to see his family. We include that in the person’s care package, and provide the necessary support staff, as we recognise how important these visits are as part of their rehabilitation.

While we have sadly had to suspend visits currently due to the pandemic, usually families can visit any day they like and we encourage them to do so.

Sometimes families have to travel a long distance to visit, as we take residents from across the UK. But even if they are only here a short time, seeing their loved one is hugely important all round.

Across our units, we have created a home from home. We aren’t rehab intensive so it’s relaxed and homely rather than a clinical environment.

Our focus is on well-being and developing skills of daily living. Experience has shown us that by treating people as individuals, with dignity and respect, helps them to engage with their support team.

They become more independent and improve their quality of life.

Of course it is a business, but I think the personal touches come from the fact it is family owned and run, without pressures from external shareholders. Richardson Care has been in business for 30 years, with 75 residents across six homes at present.

When people come out to see us, be they a professional or a family member, I always encourage them to visit our homes and see for themselves what we do and how we do it.

A few years ago my dad was diagnosed with dementia and I would have absolutely loved him to come here (although social services thought he’d be better off in a specialist dementia unit). The fact I would want my own dad to come here says it all, I think.

Sometimes it doesn’t work out for people we take here, and they won’t engage even though we’ve done the best we can, or perhaps their needs have escalated and they’ve become disruptive. But we will always try our very best.

We have good relationships with other care providers, so we know what other options are out there if someone isn’t suited to our homes, for whatever reason. We had one resident recently who had to be sectioned and went to another unit, but then he came back to us and has settled in well.

It’s fantastic to see people doing well with us, but one of the most beautiful things for me is to see people being supported to go back home.

Getting people back into their own home or to supported living, and giving them the quality of life they want through getting their independence, is what this job is all about.

Knowing that you’ve made a difference, that you’ve been part of that team to make a difference to a person’s life, is so important to us all.

Richardson Care has six residential care homes in Northampton, three of which provide care for adults with acquired brain injury. The remaining specialise in supporting adults with learning