Care in the community for south Norfolk

Care home owners Robert Blackham and his sister Sally Crawford at The Moorings, Earsham

Care home owners Robert Blackham and his sister Sally Crawford at The Moorings, Earsham - Credit: Nick Butcher

Robert Blackham and his sister Sally Crawford run Cygnet Care, providing residential care services for the elderly in Blofield, Poringland, Bungay and Earsham

Q Please tell us a little about the story of Cygnet Care and how it has developed over the years

A Cygnet Care is a local, family run organisation providing residential care for the elderly in four lovingly kept homes around south Norfolk.

Q What is the philosphy behind Cygnet Care, and how is this reflected at each of the homes?

A Unlike the large care organisations, it is important to Sally and I that all our homes are located no further than half an hour’s drive away so that we can be in support of our managers and nothing is run at “arms’ length”. Providing good quality residential care seven days a week is a real challenge, and it is important that the managers know we are there to support them on a daily basis, even at the weekend!

Q You have recently opened a new home – what is special about The Moorings, at Earsham, near Bungay?

A The Moorings is set amid some of the most wonderful countryside that the Waveney Valley has to offer, and our unique development at The Moorings makes the very best of this environment. A central theme is the residents’ access to the sensory gardens with level paths taking them on a “journey” through different gardens and courtyards. Although it is a lovely environment, it would not feel complete without the great team of loyal staff that we have working within the home.

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Q You also offer a specialised approach to dementia care – could you explain how this differs from the usual care that a resident could expect, and why it is so important to be able to offer this?

A It’s focussing on the simple things; it’s about having the right number of properly trained caring people who have empathy and truly understand the “life history” of the residents in our care. We are very proud of the training we provide our team and Marina, our wonderful training manager, makes sure staff are properly equipped to care for people with dementia. This may sound like a simple challenge but finding the right staff is proving ever challenging, and both Sally and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to our European colleagues who come to work for Britain’s health and social care.

Q What do you enjoy most about your job?

A It’s very much a people-orientated occupation, so working with a team of people who are as committed to providing care to our elderly residents is inspiring. We are not perfect and sometimes make mistakes, but we always look to see how we can improve our service. Watching our organisation grow and develop is immensely satisfying, knowing we have provided the best care we can to a person at the latter stage of their life.

Q So Robert, what is Cygnet Care’s “Big Idea” for taking residential care homes forward in Norfolk and Suffolk?

A We shall shortly be starting work on our new project at The Dell in Beccles, which we hope will push further the standards of residential care. However, we have a bigger challenge to tackle; care homes in general are not viewed positively by the media, which in turn affects the view of the general public. Residential homes are seen as a last resort when in actual fact the reality is something quite different. A challenge for all residential care providers is proving residential care can be a life-enhancing experience. w

Cygnet Care, head office, Pen House, Church Road, Earsham, NR35 2TJ; 01986 894200;