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As I reflect on 2020/21 one word comes to mind: resilience.

As I reflect on 2020/21 one word comes to mind: resilience. I have been profoundly impressed and very proud – though not surprised – by the extraordinary response of all my colleagues to the pandemic.

When we recruit for many of our roles, we value personal qualities above specific experience. People who are caring, dedicated, collaborative and determined to make a positive difference can very quickly become part of Care Plus.

Those qualities really came to the fore last year as we saw frontline staff continue to provide great care and support, safely and with courage.

The people we support in Care Plus were among the most vulnerable to this awful virus and we knew we had to act quickly and decisively to keep people healthy and to literally save lives.

Our domiciliary care teams worked day and night to provide close personal care enabling people to live safely and in some cases die at home with the people they love. They did this not without fear but in spite of fear because they knew that what they did was more important than ever and was making a difference. The retirement living team quickly adapted to working very differently, providing reassurance, advice, clear communication and practical help to 2,000 residents who were among the most vulnerable in our communities.

The public response to our front line care and support workers was vividly demonstrated when the BBC filmed a ‘Clap for Carers’ taking place outside one of our schemes. Broadcast on all news programmes the following day and even shown on the festive edition of Britain’s Got Talent on ITV, it was a moving and inspiring show of respect for outstanding people working in the most difficult of circumstances.

Our telecare team faced huge challenges, too. Some of the only staff unable to work remotely during lockdown, they maintained a 24:7 emergency response in what they described as “Relentless and exhausting” weeks in our offices.

Vivid recollections of what this period meant for our customers and staff are contained in our From the Frontline and Life in Lockdown series of stories, some of which you can find in this report.

In 2020-21 we made more than 30,000 reassurance calls to customers. We delivered 99,694 hours of vital home care and answered 134,802 telecare calls – 96.97% of them within 60 seconds.

And as we focused on support for customers and colleagues, we didn’t lose focus on our growth agenda.

During this year we purchased The Sandford, our first nursing home, in the wonderful setting of Church Stretton. As well as beautiful building, we gained a team of dedicated caring nurses and care staff some of whom have worked at The Sandford for many years. We are thrilled to add this service to Care Plus. The home and the staff team there are hugely respected by the local community and The Sandford makes a great addition to the Care Plus offering.

We continued to prepare for the opening of Wren House, which will increase the specialist supported housing provision available in Stafford and also saw work progress on The Burgesses in Kinver.

We also completed a successful integration process following our merger with Stafford and Rural Homes. During 2020-21 we harmonised our services across Staffordshire and Shropshire and re-structured to deliver efficient, effective, caring services throughout our operational area.

I very much recognise that we were not on our own during this unprecedented year. As part of a values-based Group, we had the support of our Board, my colleagues on the Executive team and people right across the organisation who stepped-in to help – making some of the reassurance calls, volunteering to deliver shopping to our customers, providing back-up cover in our retirement living communities or simply offering encouragement and understanding for our team.

Chris Pugh, Operational manager (telecare services), says it best:

I think we’re stronger as a result of this experience. We’ve all pulled together and supported each other. We have relied on our colleagues to keep us safe.