Care Matters is taking care to a new level in the North-East, as demonstrated by a magical relationship witnessed by PETER BARRON

DESPITE the obvious challenges in his life, Kev Addison is full of fun, and the infectious sound of laughter fills the room as he enjoys his regular catch-up with carer Rachael James.

A passionate Only Fools and Horses fan, Kev knows every script off by heart, and his relationship with Rachael can be summed up by one of Del Boy’s best-loved catchphrases: “Lovely jubbly.”

“He cracks me up, but I’ve told him he has to be on his best behaviour today!” smiles Rachael, who works as Care Co-ordinator for growing North-East care company, Care Matters. “We share the same sense of humour and we just clicked right from the start.”

A natural comedian, Kev’s chatting away from his wheelchair in the lounge of his smart home on a Thornaby estate and, though Rachael’s part of his care team, they’re more like friends, or even family.

“It’s not like a job coming here – it’s like popping in to see my cheeky brother!” she says.

“Younger brother!” replies Kev, quick as a flash.

Rachael runs nearby Meadowfield House, which provides personal care services at home for Kev, and it’s clear from watching her that she loves her job.

“It can be hard but it’s so rewarding, especially when you look after people like Kev,” she says. “That makes it extra-special and makes me feel really lucky to do what I do.”

Care Matters is one of the businesses that forms part of the flourishing Newlands Group, which has a growing portfolio in healthcare, recruitment, education, and commercial property.

Care Matters became part of the group in October 2013, having been born out of a growing demand via another of the group’s companies, Tribe Recruitment, to supply temporary staffing solutions for the elderly care sector.

On the back of a Government drive to keep people in their own homes for longer, Care Matters Home Care was formed, initially delivering home care services in North Yorkshire, and it has grown ever since.

Today, Care Matters has two offices – in Stockton and Darlington – plus an extra care scheme in Thornaby, and employs more than 200 people.

Last summer, it was announced that Care Matters had added around 70 staff to its workforce after doubling an existing partnership with Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council to provide domiciliary services.

The company also provides domiciliary care for Durham County Council and Darlington Borough Council, as well as home end-of-life care for the NHS. Most recently, Care Matters has begun working with Middlesbrough Borough Council and aims to recruit and train 30 new staff over the next three months.

In addition, the company provides round-the-clock complex care for people with life-changing conditions to allow them to live at home – such as the kind of support given to Kev.

His health issues began in 2001 when he had an operation for decompression of the brain after suffering from violent headaches. Five years later, he had another operation to release his spinal cord that was stuck to the scarring from the first surgery.

After suffering from an infection, he needed a third operation, followed by physiotherapy in the spinal unit at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

He lost his independence, could no longer work as a process operator for a flooring company, and initially had to rely on family members for support.

That proved unsustainable and, after using other care companies for a while, he’s now looked after by Care Matters.

“They are the best care company I’ve had without a doubt,” he says, being serious for a moment. “Without them, life would be really hard. I don’t know how I’d manage. As well as having a carer, it’s like having a friend.”

The serious face doesn’t last long, however. “I follow the Boro, so you just have to get on with it, don’t you?” he laughs.

Kev lives alone and receives daily support from staff based at Meadowfield House. His main carer is Pam Hampton, backed up more recently by Asmaa Eissa, with Rachael calling in regularly for one of their catch-ups.

“She makes nice milky coffee!” quips Kev, mischievously adding that “she has her uses”.

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Morning shifts are from 9am to lunchtime, and includes helping Kev with showering, dressing, breakfast, exercising on his MOTOmed bike, and whatever other personal support he needs.

He then has further care between 4pm and 6pm, with his tea being cooked for him, before he settles down in bed.

“He’s unbelievable – he never feels sorry for himself, and he’s a joy to be around,” says Rachael, who became a carer in 2011 after nursing her mum, Linda, through the last six months of her life with cancer.

“I’ve always looked after people, it’s in my nature, and I thought if I can do that for my mum, why not do it for others,” she recalls.

After various roles in care, she joined the team at Meadowfield House two years ago and was promoted to care co-ordinator when Care Matters took over the home a year ago.

“They’re the best company I’ve worked for because they really do care about their staff and service-users. We have such a great team, and I have a really supportive manager in Steven Hutchinson. I’ve been given the confidence and opportunities to grow as a care professional, and I’m given the freedom to run things how I see fit.”

Before going into the care sector, Rachael was a stay-at-home mum and now dotes on two grandchildren, and her strong family instincts influence the way she does her job.

“I try to treat service-users in the way I’d want my own family to be treated – that’s always been my motto,” she declares.

It’s a philosophy that Newlands Group founder Phil Crowther, and Care Matters managing director Lisa Spark, have instilled throughout the business, and they are delighted to see how well it has been embraced by the staff.

“The company’s slogan is ‘We care – you matter’ and that’s epitomised by the kind of caring relationship that’s grown between Rachael and Kev,” says Lisa. “It’s lovely to see the job satisfaction it gives Rachael and the physical and emotional benefits that it brings for Kev.”

This is Rachael’s last visit before Kev goes on holiday to Tenerife with his brother, Craig. They try to get away a couple of times a year for some sunshine, and Kev can’t wait.

“Have a good time but make sure you Facetime me while you’re away – you’d better not forget,” Rachael tells him.

 “I always do – I’d never hear the last of it otherwise!” comes the reply.


STEVEN Hutchinson trained as a professional chef, but now he’s serving up first-class care after switching careers. Steven is loving life as regional manager of growing North-East company Care Matters, but he admits that his career in the care sector was something of an accident.

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“I never really meant to develop a career in care,” he laughs. “I just wanted to do care, to do something interesting. The career just happened.”

Growing up in North Ormesby, Steven trained as a professional chef at The Longlands Hotel, in Middlesbrough, and then toured the country, cooking in various hospitality roles, but the monotony started to get to him.

“It was the same thing, day in, day out. Making the same recipes, cooking the same carvery every Sunday,” he says. “I needed a change.”

Moving back to Teesside when he turned 21, and in search of some variety, Steven took a part-time job one day a week as a community healthcare assistant. Little did he suspect this was the first step on his road to success.

“I thought it was going to be a lot of visiting people for a cup of tea,” he says. “But on my first day, I went out to an end-of-life patient, and I quickly realised that no two days were going to be the same in this job!”

Steven had discovered a talent for care, and bosses took note of the good feedback he was getting from clients. Before he knew it, Steven’s one-day-a-week role had turned into a full-time job.

Developing a natural rapport with clients and earning the trust of colleagues, he swiftly rose through the ranks to registered manager, then to a regional manager position, before joining Care Matters in 2019.

“When I came to Care Matters, it was still a very small company, but I felt straight away that they still genuinely cared – about clients, about staff, and about the job.

“The company has grown a lot since then and it’s never boring. My plans change some days just between leaving home and arriving at work!”

As regional manager, Steven oversees both Meadowfield House, in Thornaby, and the company’s Darlington location.

Care supervisor, Rachael James, calls him “the best manager I’ve had”, even though in all their time working together, the former chef has never cooked for her.

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“I don’t cook at all now, I’m just too busy!” he protests. “People often think being a regional manager is a desk job, but I’m still out there – visiting clients, going out on calls. You know, just to keep things interesting.”

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