THERE is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ for carers, but some of the qualities that matter are compassion, confidence and good communication skills.

At Premier Community Care, the 146 care staff are all individuals, but they know what is needed for the service-users who they visit at home.

While the majority of clients are usually older people, who get support in their own home with personal care, medication and other practical support tasks such as housework and shopping, Premier will also help to care for younger people with learning or physical disabilities.

The company was established 25 years ago by Tom Harker and his son Graham, after Tom recognised the need for people who wanted domiciliary care, rather than going in to a care home.

He already had a successful business with his own Devonshire House care home, which he ran in West Auckland.

Graham says: “My father was an ex-nurse and understood people’s needs. In the early days, social care was more about being a home help. Whilst one of the many tasks would be to light fires for people, over recent years the role of the care worker has become all-encompassing, and the training programme has been adapted to suit the changing role.

“We now employ 160 staff in total, and have service-users throughout the county.”

Graham is proud of the company’s ‘Good’ rating from the Care Quality Commission, at their last inspection in 2019, as well as the results from the most recent tender process with Durham County Council, which preserved the company’s status as a Contracted Provider.

One of their newest recruits is Ebonie Whitwell, 20, from St Helen Auckland, who joined the company a year ago. She was at college training for a career in childcare, but saw an advert for a carer position with Premier, and decided to apply.

She says: “I absolutely love it. I love helping people - I know I can make a difference. I love going to work and, since starting, I feel happy all the time.”

Training manager, Sue Wood, is one of the company’s first employees, starting as a carer in 1994.

She said: “Lots of our clients see care workers, like Ebonie, as a friend. She was a natural straight away. This is a very rewarding job for the right person. You become close to the clients, and it is lovely that your presence makes things a bit better and easier for them. The work we do has to suit the person we are helping - it is always about manners and respect.”

With 17 years under her belt, care worker Christine Smith, 68, is one of the most experienced members of the team, who says: “It is a very rewarding job. You feel good if you have done a bit of good in someone’s day.”

Mr Harker adds: “We work with a lot of people who are vulnerable, and a big part of their lives is the visit from their care worker. Families are often busy with work, or don’t live close-by, so what we do is not just about the physical help which we can provide, but also the social interaction.

“We provide the practical help someone might need to stay more independent, for longer.”

Wansbeck House, 88 Cockton Hill, Bishop Auckland, DL14 6BE

Telephone: 01388 458991

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