“Tristone has done exactly what they said they would do – if you focus on values then everything else will follow”
Passion and purpose are hallmarks of the Tristone philosophy. It comes as little surprise, therefore, that we find it in abundance at community business, Juventas Services, and, in particular, it resonates during our conversation with managing director, Alison Moore.
Alison epitomises the attitude and approach that defines the forward-thinking provider of specialist and bespoke residential care for young people aged from 10 to 18. Her passion for providing vulnerable children and young adults with a safe and nurturing environment – one that emulates the role of a family and provides a much-needed sense of normality – is palpable. “We recognise that not all young people can live in a collective society, so the need for more one-to-one specialist bespoke care is vital,” she explains.
Fifteen months on from taking over the reins at the Norfolk-based provider, we caught up with Alison to discuss the sector, ‘one of the busiest and fastest-paced roles’ she’s ever taken on, and the challenges that lie ahead for children’s social care.
The mother-of-two, and an ardent outdoor enthusiast, joined Juventas in October 2020, at a time when the business was ready to move in a new direction and grow its residential services. Having worked in management from many years, with considerable experience in both support services and social care, she was ideally placed to oversee all facets of the business, and, in the last 12 months, Alison has opened a further two children’s homes, with a fourth setting in the pipeline and a fifth in planning. She’s certainly not wasted any time.
“We are trying to meet the demands of what we are seeing coming through,” Alison explains. “Demand from children with behavioural and social difficulties, who sadly haven’t found a suitable care location – children who are going round and round the system.”
Over the last 15 months, Alison has spent time acclimatising to life within the Tristone community.
“A lot of private equity and growth capital houses say that they put the outcomes of children before profits, but that’s not always true and they don’t always hold those values close to their hearts. However, Tristone has done exactly what they said they would do – if you focus on values then everything else will follow.
“It’s wonderful to be a part of the Tristone community and have the support of other people who are doing the same job and facing the same challenges on a day-to-day basis. Being an MD can often be a lonely place; however, working collaboratively in a structure like this provides you with an excellent sounding board, the support and wisdom of like-minded people, and an opportunity to share ideas that you can utilise and integrate into your own business.”
With that in mind, where does Alison see the business in 12 months’ time? “Our plan is to establish the service further – one that meets the needs of high acuity children, providing them with a small, bespoke and safe space to live, and one that ultimately becomes a lasting placement.”
Alison’s ambitions for the business are very clear; so too are the challenges facing the sector. “For me, the single biggest issue is recruitment. More and more, people are sadly stepping away from social care at a time when we need them the most. Unfortunately, the job of finding suitable replacements is becoming increasingly difficult.
“Once we recruit good staff, we keep hold of them, because of the values we have as a business and how we treat our team. But, at the moment, it feels like we’re forever recruiting and finding the right people who have the passion and drive to work with children with complex behavioural and social needs on a 24/7 basis is a struggle.
“The other challenge facing the sector is cuts to public spending. While we’re by no means the most expensive provider, the reality is small, bespoke services come at a cost and the squeeze on public funding has an obvious knock-on effect.”
So, what is needed to tackle those issues? “We’re fortunate to have a recruitment officer who onboards our staff, looks at how to get our adverts out into the public domain, and invests more time into our employees, right from the point of being a candidate to becoming a valued member of the team. However, the decline in social care workers is a sector-wide problem and the question is how can we regenerate interest in the sector, rather than find new ways of recruiting individuals.
“We need to get the message across over and over again about the many transferable skills that people within the likes of catering and retail have, and the difference they can make in the social care profession. We must continuously feed the sector, otherwise we will continue to struggle.”
Ultimately, it all comes back to the idea of passion and purpose – something Alison has in spades. “Without doubt, what I love most about my job is making a real difference to the lives of young people. Out of 20 children, if you can make a difference to just one, then you’ve achieved something very important. As a mother myself, it seems only right for me to play my part in providing a secure and safe environment for children to develop and learn about who they are and the role they have to play in future in the wider community.” It’s fair to say, she’s doing just that.