Category Archives: Blog

Special Relationship Heart

Neil Jameson and John McCain – Two heroes on both sides of the Atlantic

“We don’t put our heroes on pedestals just to remember them. We raise them up because we want to emulate their virtues.” – Megan McCain

By Robert Stephenson-Padron

I am writing to you from London in the United Kingdom, over 5,000 miles from my home town in California in the United States.

The recent passing of American statesman John McCain and retirement of British social justice champion Neil Jameson reminded me that the values we share when we are at our best transcend this vast distance.

Neil Jameson and John McCain are two heroes of the modern era from two different lands very far from each other, who I expect may have never met each other, but where I find so many commonalities in their values.

These are my reflections on these values and what I believe we can learn from them.

Who is Neil Jameson and who was John McCain?

Neil Jameson has dedicated his life to others through civil society organising. After first working as a social worker, Mr. Jameson traveled to America to learn the skills of community organising from the Industrial Areas Foundation. Returning to Britain, Mr. Jameson founded Citizens UK and has been promoting community organising in the UK since 1989. Citizens UK empowers foundational groups in British society such as synagogues, churches, mosque and schools by convincing them to work together to advance positive change in their communities.

Neil Jameson is the best form of warrior you find in a democracy. A patient builder of fruitful endeavours – Neil Jameson is the unheralded father of the UK’s modern Living Wage movement which since its inception in the early 2000s has positively impacted over 100,000 low-wage workers in Britain. (1) A collaborative fighter against injustice – Neil Jameson united British civil society against usurious loan sharks and on his last day at the helm of Citizens UK, was able to bid good riddance to Britain’s largest payday lender. (2)

Neil Jameson on rubbish duty at Care in the Square

Neil Jameson on rubbish duty at Care in the Square, Parliament Square, London, UK on March 31, 2014.

John McCain dedicated his life to the United States of America and its revolutionary ideals. He served as a US Navy pilot during the Vietnam War, survived being a tortured captive of Communist forces in Vietnam, dedicated his life to legislative service first in the US House of Representatives (1983-1987) and then the US Senate (from 1987); was a nominee for US president in 2008; and while a legislator helped freedom aspiring democrats around the world as chair of the International Republican Institute from 1993 to 2018.

John McCain was the best form of warrior you find in a democracy. A volunteer who risk physical harm or death to defend the innocent – John McCain risked his life to fight for strangers in a far off land against autocracy. A peacemaker and uniter – John McCain helped with reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam and he led a legislative career that recognised that his fellow democrats in the opposing political party were fellow countrymen, not foes.

John McCain visiting orphanage in Vietnam

Then U.S. Navy Commander John S. McCain III visiting an orphanage that cares for youngsters fathered by American G.I.s. in Saigon, Vietnam, on Oct. 30, 1974. McCain, a son of the admiral who commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific at the height of the Vietnam War, was shot down over Hanoi and spent several years as a prisoner of war (POW) from October 26, 1967 to March 14, 1973. (AP Photo/Dang Van Phuoc).

Both are and were dedicated family men.

Both men, empowered by selfless love, dedicated their lives to humble service and democracy. Both remind us of the values and ideals of the Trans-Atlantic bond that unite us across a vast ocean.

These heroes remind us of the values we share across the Atlantic

Journalist Madeline Schwartz this week, writing in the Guardian, asked, “if shared values and norms are the foundation of the liberal world order, what are they?” (3) Sen. McCain had the answer, summarising our Trans-Atlantic values by asserting that,

“We Stand For:

Truth against falsehood, 

Freedom against tyranny, 

Right against injustice,

Hope against despair.”  (4)

As Sir Winston Churchill asserted 72 years ago when he articulated Trans-Atlantic values to an American audience as British Prime Minister: “Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practise – let us practise what we preach.” (5)

Sen. McCain lived these values. Neil Jameson continues to live them. Like the true heroes they are, their examples inspire the rest of us to want to live these values.

The heroism of Neil Jameson and John McCain reminded us of the beauty of our values

When I saw the universality of Mr. Jameson’s retirement celebration – people across the faiths, young and old – I was convinced that these values are universal. Our values are universal because they reflect the best virtues of humanity and there is infinite beauty in virtue, “as virtue is the beauty of the soul.” (6)

“We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world,” said John McCain in his final word to the American people, and in living these values, “helped liberate more people from tyranny and poverty than ever before in history.” (7)

My work in caring for the elderly keeps me close to the memories of past tyrannies. An elderly woman I know fled the Nazi terrors almost 80 years ago. Earlier this year, she told me: “There is nothing beautiful in the news today. There is no hope for humanity [in the portrayal of the world in the news]”. Her experiences of some of the worst horrors of history give credibility to her appraisal of our current age and I found it haunting.

The uplifting grace of Mr. Jameson’s retirement celebration, which I attended in person, and the memorial of Sen. McCain, which I observed from afar provided a reprieve from the dark world depicted by this refugee of the Nazi terrors. I saw that in the midst of so much darkness, heroism illuminates that which is beautiful.

How does one describe this beauty in words? Dr. Kaneeez Shaid, Chair of Citizens UK, said (audio link) at Mr. Jameson’s retirement celebration, “how do you sum up a man like this?” I feel she did not fail when she quoted the 13th century Sufi mystic, Rumi:

“You are not just a drop in the ocean but you are the world’s ocean in just one drop.” (8)


Reflecting on this beauty I believe there are two core lessons I learned from attending Neil Jameson’s retirement celebration and watching from afar memorial remembrances of John McCain: 1) The centrality of love in their humble service, and 2) That true love led them to leave no one behind.

Lesson 1: The centrality of love in humble service

What is it that drives a true hero – a hero that endures countless hardship in the service to others? I believe John McCain’s daughter, Megan McCain, gave us the answer when she eulogised her father saying that “John McCain was defined by love.” (9) Love was the source of John McCain’s selfless and enduring service, which can best be described as humble service – service purified by “a value set that was neither selfish nor self-serving.” (10) In his retirement speech, Neil Jameson said that humility is a blessing. I would add then that humble service is a blessing to others. Humble service is an expression of selfless love that provides the courage for a person to provide extraordinary levels of heroism, including that of laying down their life for another. (11)

The idea that love is purifying is a foundational and enduring notion within our cultural heritage. Indeed, Paul of Tarsus wrote that,

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (12)

Thousands of years later, John McCain and Neil Jameson exemplify the truth in Paul’s ancient wisdom. It is this form of selfless love which helps explain why John McCain refused an early release from captivity during the Vietnam War until his fellow prisoners of war were also released – a decision that put him through cruel torture that left him with lifelong physical impairments. (13) It is this form of selfless love which explains why such a giant of brilliance like Neil Jameson dedicated his life to a cause of the poor in East London and around the UK – a cause requiring enormous sweat but modest material gain.

I have also observed the truth of this link in my own work in care for the elderly. Although we rarely mention it by name, love is the true power of my organisation and my colleagues. This truth was brought to my attention when a clinician and family member of an elderly person we support told me, “I am genuinely impressed by how careful and comprehensive [your organisation] is… in trying to care for her and love her (yes, that’s the word).” We do not talk speak often in our society about how love can empower our work but we should.

There is an especially important human emotion that love purifies: anger. Anger that boils in us from being wronged or seeing others wronged can destroy, do nothing or create. In his retirement speech, Neil Jameson referred to two forms of anger and also warned against timidity:

  • “Angry hostility” (known as “hot anger” in the parlance of community organising) which Mr. Jameson said is a “mistake, it’s unhealthy, it doesn’t lead to relationships.” This is an anger that destroys. I would put anger that does nothing also in the destructive side because if a person does nothing in the face of evil, then that evil is likely to remain unabated and may increase. “Timidity is a problem, we have to be more courageous but humble with our wits,” Neil Jameson said in his retirement speech. And,
  • “Cold anger”, a concept of American community organising pioneer Saul Alinksy. Cold anger is reflective anger purified by building character within oneself which leads people to work together, to build relationships and to muster the courage and persistence to fight against injustice and create a better world. (14)

It was cold anger which led to the Magna Carta, cold anger which led to the American Declaration of Independence, cold anger which led to VE Day and V-J Day, cold anger that led to the Washington Treaty, cold anger which has driven the expansion of democracy – “the best system of government” (15)  – across the world. It is cold anger which drives people of goodwill to continue fighting against injustice wherever they find it.

Anger purified by love – as it is love that directs pain and suffering to the build-up of character – drives the courage of our heroes. This must be why Megan McCain said that her father John McCain had a “famous temper” but was also “defined by love”. (9) I believe it is love that likely illuminated to John McCain that “evil is a real and active force in human affairs and that it is our duty to oppose it as best we can.” (16)

It is selfless love that has led my organisation to herald decent work for social care workers within and cold anger which has compelled us to combat widespread labour exploitation of social care workers outside our organisation.

Lesson 2: True love leaves no one behind

In 1893, the Cuban writer José Martí reflected that: “Mankind is composed of two sorts of men – those who love and create and those who hate and destroy.” (17) I believe that this is probably roughly true but caution an overly simplistic interpretation. I would say that a person can, in an unbalanced pursuit to create, start at the first and end in the later. For instance, I would consider it a failure if a person created a vast business empire but forgets their spouse and has children that are effectively unknown to them. They are then in the later camp because they are destroying one good thing while building another thing.

I expect this reality is why for instance, the Franciscan Friars who honoured Mr. Jameson at his retirement celebration have foregone families born of intimacy for families born of spirituality, so they can sacrifice themselves almost completely to the service of strangers. However, those of us who are not friars cannot do this. And I do see in the world today, mired by unfulfilling pursuits for material comforts, a tendency to sacrifice those closer to us in a pursuit for the other. This is not however, genuine sacrifice but more likely a manifestation of selfishness.

In society today, service to strangers gives you a brownie button – societal recognition – whereas service behind closed doors, say to one’s family, gives you almost no outside recognition. The later however is what we must learn as this is where we learn “humble service”. That is, we must serve others irrespective of praise or monetary reward. We should serve others because it is morally right and a manifestation of sacred ideals and values for which we are custodians. I believe this is in part what John McCain meant when he said we stand for “right against injustice,” and why former US Vice President Joe Biden said John McCain “could not stand the abuse of power – wherever he saw it, in whatever form, in whatever ways” (10) –  as selfishness disguised as service is a perversion of humble service.

Therefore, unbalanced service to one party at the undue expense of another party is likely to turn your service into service to yourself. Your original good intentions could thus transform into one of the seven deadly sins of vain glory. This must be avoided. And it can be avoided by remembering your family, your roots. In fairly allocating our time we build humility as we learn that we cannot do everything ourselves and this pushes us to rely on others, to build relationships with others.

Positively, service to strangers in its balanced form prepares us to serve our families better. A willingness to forego the constant pursuit of more in the service of others teaches us the meaning of love and indeed, of life – to put another’s wellbeing ahead of our own. And we learn a peace in this form of service which helps us bring peace to our families. As John McCain said in his final words to the American people he loved so much, “To be connected to America’s causes — liberty, equal justice, respect for the dignity of all people — brings happiness more sublime than life’s fleeting pleasures.” (7) Neil Jameson at his retirement speech (audio link) reiterated this peace in service when he said,

“So many of us spend [our] time, and I did when I was much younger, going round and round… looking for the meaning of life and then frankly was blessed to be in a position to find a smidgen of it… it’s all about people and institutions, it’s all about head teachers, priests, rabbis and others who give their life to civil society and institutions which are so important for us to learn how to work together and be together in faith and for justice, and for a strong common good.”

Complimentarily, service to our families forges our ability to love, which further empowers our ability to serve strangers – because as noted earlier, love is purifying. The truth of this assertion is demonstrated in the family lives of Neil Jameson and John McCain. In an era where intimate relationships have become throw-away recreational activities, Mr. Jameson and Sen. McCain maintain/ed lifelong commitments to their families while at the same time dedicating their lives to the service of strangers. At Mr. Jameson’s retirement party, Mrs. Jean Jameson, Neil Jameson’s wife, highlighted (audio link) to the attendees, to my surprise indeed (!) when she said: “I’m so sorry that the staff in talking about the last thirty years missed out completely that Neil had managed to have four children, seven grandchildren, ate meals at home… played tennis and generally had a very good life-work balance.”

It should be no surprise however that the staff of Citizens UK “missed out completely” this part of Neil’s life possibly because they felt that he gave so much of himself to them that they failed to comprehend how much he was also giving to his family at home. With both parties feeling so embraced by Mr. Jameson’s service and love, we must conclude that he struck the right balance between serving one’s family and serving those outside of our families – our communities.

What is the source of this balance between serving strangers and serving our families – a balance that leaves neither behind? I believe Neil Jameson in his retirement speech possibly honed into a key source when he echoed the ancient wisdom of Memento Mori: “Focus on time because we know time is precious and that we all will die… which is why we shouldn’t waste time.” Being mindful of our mortality, that time is limited, we are likely to serve others at the most optimal allocated times so that indeed, we leave no one behind.

At Sen. McCain’s funeral, his daughter Megan McCain in her powerful eulogy said, “This love of my father for my mother was the most fierce and lasting of them all, mom. Let me tell you what love meant to John McCain and me. His love was the love of a father who mentors as much as he comforts. He was endlessly present for us.” (9)

Presence – that is how we learn to leave no one behind. Indeed, showing up is an act of love.

Therefore, if we are to learn to not leave behind strangers, shouldn’t we first learn not to leave behind those closest to us – our friends and our family? We begin by going to that baby shower. That baptism. That school play. That graduation. Remembering that anniversary. Attending that wedding. Mourning at that funeral. Remembering and being with that family at home – being with that friend in need across town. I work with the elderly and the dying. I can tell you with near certainty that these small acts of love are what will matter to you before you make that final flight.

When we receive and give love, we are better able to understand our fellow human beings. In my work in elderly care, love inspires us to do our best and to be our best.


“Those who say that we’re in a time when there are not heroes, they just don’t know where to look,” said Ronald Reagan in 1981. (18) His statement remains true today. There are heroes among us. One, John McCain, has just passed into the next world but his memory will provide inspiration to people of goodwill for generations. Another, Neil Jameson, is still with us and we are all blessed by his continued wisdom, warmth and good works.

The unity of the values of these two great men is such that there is a powerful complementarity in some of their parting wisdom.  In his final words to the American people, John McCain said, “Our identities and sense of worth are not circumscribed but enlarged by serving good causes bigger than ourselves.” (7) And in speaking of good causes in his retirement speech, Neil Jameson said, “Never give up… this is a holy and a religious pursuit that we have… to persuade people to work together.” These messages coalesce into a powerful message: never give up in the good causes you serve.

Thank you John McCain, my fellow American. Please continue fighting for the lowly up from Heaven. Thank you Neil Jameson, my fellow British democrat. Thank you for being a hero. And thank you both for reminding us of how strongly united the people of America and the United Kingdom are in the values we share when we are at our best.

Robert Stephenson-Padron, aged 33, is the managing director of Penrose Care. Since age 15, he has been active in a variety of civic causes including affordable housing, the Living Wage and improved working conditions for social care workers.

Robert Stephenson-Padron meets Neil Jameson

Photo of the Citizens UK event where Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron met Neil Jameson at Friends House, London, UK on October 15, 2013.


Robert Stephenson-Padron with Neil Jameson on his retirement day

Penrose Care managing director with Citizens UK Executive Director Neil Jameson on the day of his retirement from that position at Citizens UK HQ, east London, UK on August 31, 2018.


(1) Edmund Heery, Deborah Hann, David Nash, “The Living Wage campaign in the UK” (Employee Relations, 2017, Vol. 39 Issue: 6), pgs. 800-814, available online here.

(2) “Payday lender Wonga goes into administration: Citizens UK reaction” (Citizens UK: 31 August 2018), available online here.

(3) Madeleine Schwartz, “The end of Atlanticism: has Trump killed the ideology that won the cold war?” (The Guardian: 04 September 2018), available online here.

(4) John McCain, “Remarks by SASC Chairman John McCain At the 2017 Munich Security Conference” (Office of US Senator John McCain, 17 February 2017), available online here.

(5) Churchill, Winston “The Sinews of Peace” (International Churchill Society: 5 March 1946), available online here.

(6) Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in 12 vols. Fireside Edition (Boston and New York, 1909), available online here.

(7) “Read full text of Sen. John McCain’s final words to nation” (NBC News: 27 August 2018), available online here.

(8) Matt Auron, “Evolution is Everywhere” (Medium: 14 December 2017), available online here.

(9) “Read the full text of Meghan McCain’s speech at John McCain’s memorial service” (NBC News: 01 September 2018), available online here.

(10) Megan Freidman, “Joe Biden Gave an Incredibly Powerful Speech at John McCain’s Memorial” (Town and Country Magazine:  30 August 2018), available online here.

(11) John 15:13, NLT, available online here.

(12) 1 Cor. 13:4-7, NIV, available online here.

(13) Eliza Relman, “As a POW in Vietnam, John McCain refused release until his fellow prisoners were freed, making him a hero in the eyes of many” (Business Insider, 26 August 2018), available online here.

(14) Vijay Phulwani, “The Poor Man’s Machiavelli: Saul Alinsky and the Morality of Power” (American Political Science Review, 2016, Vol 110 No. 4.), pg 873, available online here.

(15) Carnes Lord and Fank Barnett (ed), Political warfare and psychological operations (National Defense University Press, 1989), pg. 8, available online here.

(16) As was said in a eulogy of one of his colleagues in the international movement for democracy, Jean Bethke Elshtain who passed before him five years earlier. | William Glaston, “Remembering Jean Bethke Elshtain” (The New Republic, 26 August 2013), available online here.

(17) Bruce Ladd Gary, Quotes for Misanthropes (Reductionist Publications, 2009), pg. 30, available online here.

(18) Ronald Reagan, “Inaugural Address” (UC Santa Barbara: 20 January 1981) , available online here.


2016-10-31 (Penrose Care) Living Wage celebration

The modern Living Wage movement provides hope in a cynical age

By Robert Stephenson-Padron

At his 2016 Templeton Prize address, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks warned against dangers simmering in Western societies from the outsourcing of moral responsibility. Lord Rabbi Sacks said:

“Wherever we look, politically, religiously, economically, environmentally, there is insecurity and instability. It is not too much to say that the future of the West and the unique form of freedom it has pioneered for the past four centuries is altogether at risk.” (1)

Indeed, there is an air of cynicism in the West today. I can feel it. I expect you can feel it as well. Fortunately, as in other periods of human history, there is a glimmer of hope that rejects this cynicism: the modern Living Wage movement born out of East London in 2001 by Citizens UK.

2016-05-26 (Penrose Care) Jonathan Sacks and Robert Stephenson-Padron

Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks after he received the 2016 Templeton Prize on May 26, 2016.

The cynicism of the age is fuelled by masking the costs of society’s economic progress

It’s important to first look at the personal attraction to outsourcing moral responsibility since much of the pathologies that appear in society as a whole or in our workplaces specifically start within each one of us. Tribalism and nativism stem from a universal vice – that of a tendency to reject the dignity of “other” human beings out of selfishness. This tendency is amplified with feelings of insecurity.

If you harm an innocent person however, the goodness within you also has a say – you are likely to feel bad about it afterwards. It appears as guilt and that type of stress that keeps you from sleeping well at night. It nags at you, it tells you, “maybe you’re doing wrong.” “Maybe you shouldn’t be doing this.”

We humans don’t like feeling guilty, but we are also aghast to the idea of anyone telling us what to do – and that goes for our inner conscience. Therefore, by dissociating certain human beings from their innate dignity, by reducing them to some category of otherness, we move to a system whereby we may violate the dignity of human beings while minimising our guilt in our progress towards whatever lofty goal we may have: say purely maximising profits or minimising costs without reference to any value system.

With guilt restrained, human selfishness metastasises into an epidemic of exploitation. Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski believed that “sensitivity to evil” is indeed “the only system of reference that allows us to contemplate [the] price [paid for ‘progress’] and forces us to ask whether it is exorbitant.” (2) To violate the dignity of another person is evil and by blurring our associated guilt behind different man-made curtains, we lose our sense of evil.

In the UK, we see the results of minimising costs without reference to human dignity starkly demonstrated in the ailing home care sector – where years of Local Councils tendering out home care services for the elderly and disabled persons to the lowest bidders without reference to minimum legal labour standards resulted in a sector of contract winners that widely pay their care workers below the minimum wage, rush them from 15 minute home visit to 15 minute home visit, and call them in and out of work like machines in a warehouse. With home care workers working behind the curtains of these contract holders, Local Councils turned a blind eye to years of labour exploitation.

The case of the UK home care sector has also shown that maximising profits or minimising costs without reference to human dignity is not sustainable. As Herbert Stein’s Law counsels us, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

In the years following the British tax office’s justified step-up of enforcement of the National Minimum Wage in 2014, three of the UK’s top five operators in the home care sector exited the market. In January 2018, home care workers in Birmingham went on strike over continued austerity of the city’s social care budget which has put enormous strain on the city’s shrunken home care workforce. Events like this, akin to the Memphis (USA) sanitation strikes of 1968 which halted trash collections, remind us that human beings can only be exploited so far. These sudden stops are harmful and they are the direct result of responsible parties outsourcing their responsibilities to others.

Paradoxically, these cases of labour exploitation are under the backdrop of GDP per head in the UK, a broad measure of wealth, being the highest it has ever been in history. Unfortunately, rather than use our growing wealth to adequately address the “costs” associated with this growth, individual actors who are able to address them have widely let these costs spiral out of control into the dire situation we have today. (3) Former American diplomat Ivo Daalder well summarised the paradox of the West’s unprecedented economic growth in 2016:

“Within… global cities… a growing number of people have been left behind. And beyond these cities – out in other parts of the country – more people have lost out on the benefits produced by globalization and accelerating technological innovation. All too many people, in the past fifteen years, have seen their wages stagnate or even cut, their jobs lost, hopes dashed, and dreams deferred.” (4)

With hopes dashed and dreams deferred, we see a rise in people in the West adhering to movements which offer false dreams, which Rabbi Lord Sacks identifies as: “the far right, the far left, religious extremism and aggressive secularism.” (1)

Should we not be surprised that this culture of moral irresponsibility that poisons societies as a whole also poisons workplaces?

Indeed, former PR executive Robert Phillips notes that, “In any organisation, 80% of the workforce is dis-enfranchised and doesn’t care. 25% of the 80% would actively sabotage the organisation for which they work.” (5) If you’re a business leader of an organisation with employee disenchantment to that degree, do you think your organisation is sustainable? I think not.

2018-02-06 (Penrose Care) In the news

In contrast to many of its peers, Penrose Care has been a champion of ethical home care, which it has promoted through various channels, including the national British media.

The real Living Wage accreditation process unmasks hidden exploitation

When I first entered the corporate workforce in 2007, I discovered that the kind security staff, the indispensable cafeteria workers, and phenomenal cleaners I encountered in my workplace all worked for other firms although we all worked under the same “umbrella firm”. I thought at the time, that’s odd. I later learned that this was a common system of outsourcing whereby companies contract out essential internal corporate services, often to the lowest bidder.

If a decision-maker can seemingly outsource the moral responsibility of say, the exploitation of workers on their premises to boost the bottom line, then why not? What if your cleaners and security staff can only get by with third-party assistance, such as in-work benefits; or have to work a second job which means they seldom see their families? Behind the curtain of the contract holders, you may think these are the contract winners’ problems, or more likely, you just may be wholly unaware of the working conditions of these outsourced staff.

As the common reasoning goes: as the manager of the “umbrella firm”, I am responsible for my “employees”. Whereas, what happens to the others – the contractors – that is not my business and you think, not my responsibility. The actual accreditation process of being a real Living Wage Employer however recognises that IT IS your responsibility.

The Living Wage Foundation requires an Accredited Living Wage Employer to roll out the real living wage – £10.20/hour in London currently vs a minimum wage of £7.50/hour for those 25 of age and above – to certain outsourced staff such as cleaners, along with the organisation’s actual employees.

In this way becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer does something very simple but also very powerful: it reminds you that moral responsibility for the labour standards of those serving your organisation, whether employed or contracted, rest with you. In a culture where the buck stops nowhere, the Living Wage movement reminds you that the buck stops with you.


2016-10-31 (Penrose Care) Olga Garcia and Robert Stephenson-Padron

Penrose Care senior care worker Olga Garcia and managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron after Penrose Care being named the London Living Wage Champion 2016 on October 31, 2016.

Celebrating the goodness of the Living Wage promotes the sustainability of those committed to it

By making the courageous moral choice to pay your workers – employed and outsourced – a wage they can live decently from, you are implicitly recognising that all of your colleagues have dignity as human beings. As with finite lives, human beings’ sweat and time is sacred, and thus must be duly respected with fair compensation in return. The young Winston Churchill eloquently recognised this truth in the last century, “It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions.” (6)

Realistically, making a moral choice where the cost are high is difficult, hence the need for courage. It means you as a leader need to build and maintain an organisation that is voluntarily taking on a higher cost base than your peers and yet must still be viable and sustainable. For organisations that are not naturally high value-added – such as social care, cleaning, non-luxury retail, and certain manufacturers – and so struggle to afford paying the real Living Wage need a higher quality product/service and associated brand to allow them to charge sufficiently to maintain viability and sustainability.

This is where the Living Wage Foundation, and its celebratory awards such as the Living Wage Champion program, are key. By helping to publicise the good moral choice of your organisation to pay your workers the real Living Wage, the awards help you convey the message of goodness to the public, which will hopefully raise your brand awareness in prospective customers, helping to sustain your Living Wage commitment.

This has been a key recipe for success for my organisation, Penrose Care, which was one of the UK’s first Accredited Living Wage Employers. This view was further confirmed to me in December 2017 when I posed the question to Lee Phillips, finance director of Living Wage-pet food manufacturer Roger Skinner Ltd, “how can a manufacturer in an OECD country maintain ethical labour practices when its cost base is already higher than its international peers?” He told me, “The right ethics, right morals, and you need a brand [to credibly signal this quality]; and look after your customers.”

2017-12-14 (Penrose Care) Robert Stephenson-Padron with Lee Phillips

Penrose Care managing director with Roger Skinner finance director Lee Phillips after discussing the importance of the Living Wage and ethical labour practices for business success on December 14, 2017.

It must be highlighted that being a real Living Wage Employer means your product and service is higher quality. Since neuroscience tells us that good actions tend to release the “feel-good hormone” oxytocin, by adding an ethical component to the purchase of your goods and services for your customers, you have ipso facto boosted the quality of your offering. (7) It should therefore be no surprise that research has indicated that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for goods and services from Accredited Living Wage Employers. (8)

The intrinsic morality of the Living Wage movement stands in contrast to unbridled self-interests

By working as partners with employers, the Living Wage movement builds up workplaces that adhere to moral responsibility, that promote togetherness, that have a common vision that all of us have innate dignity.

Do not underestimate the impact your decisions in the workplace can have on wider society. The great American labour leader Lane Kirkland once said, “history moves when civil society reaches a critical point. It is not decided in the foreign ministries or in the palaces of power but on the streets and in the work places.” (9) By doing a moral good in the workplace, you set a good example for your colleagues to also do good and by boosting their financial security, you reduce the fuel to some of the more macro-level evils we see in the world today. In a cynical world, the Living Wage employer stands as a visible sign that humans can be good. And together, we in the Living Wage movement will continue to make history, tilting it towards goodness and justice, remembering that “It is not hope that gives rise to action so much as action that gives rise to hope.” (10)

Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of home care provider Penrose Care, the winner of the Living Wage Champion award in 2016 for the London region. Penrose Care has been an Accredited Living Wage Employer since 2012.

The foregoing article is the full version of a shorter article written for the web page of the Living Wage Foundation.

2016-10-31 (Penrose Care) Living Wage Champion award

The Living Wage Champion 2016 trophy of Penrose Care.


(1) Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, “The Dangers of Outsourcing Morality” ( 27 May 2016), available online here.

(2) Nathan Gardels, “Man does not live by reason alone”, interview with Leszek Kolakowski from 1991 (New Perspectives Quarterly: Fall 2009/Winter 2010), available online here.

(3) Angel Gurría, “Launch of ‘In It Together – Why Less Inequality Benefits All’” (OECD: 21 May 2015), available online here.

(4) Ambassador Ivo Daalder, “The New Demagoguery”, address at the University of Kent (Chicago Council: 13 July 2016), available online here.

(5) Robert Phillips, “Post Truth, Post Trust, Post PR: The crisis of trust is a crisis of leadership”, address at Erasmus University (Jericho Chambers: 20 October 2016), available online.

(6) Donald Hirsch, “How the old idea of the living wage has been embraced by the political establishment” (The Conversation: 6 June 2017), available online here.

(7) Priya Advani, “How Random Acts of Kindness Can Benefit Your Health” (Huffington Post: 11 August 2013), available online here.

(8) Living Wage South Bank Report (South Bank BID: 4 October 2017), page 6, available online here.

(9) Arch Puddington, “How American Unions Helped Solidarity Win” (American Educator: Summer 2005), available online here.

(10) Matthew Taylor, “The idealism of realism” (RSA: 29 June 017), available online here.

2017-07-04 (Penrose Care) Founding of Penrose Care

Five years on, thank you Dr. Knight

July 4, 2017 marks the birthday of the Penrose Care group of companies. And on this fifth anniversary of Penrose Care’s founding, our co-founder Robert Stephenson-Padron wrote an open thank you letter to our other co-founder, Dr. Matthew Knight.

Dear Dr. Knight,

The Fourth of July not only marks the birthday of my country of birth, the great United States of America, but also another thing very close to my heart: Penrose Ltd, the company you and I founded five years ago on July 4, 2012. Penrose Ltd is the holding company of Penrose Care Ltd, the social care organisation you and I created that is the UK’s pioneer of ethics in home care.

What was it that we did? What did we do that has attracted especially talented people who have vocations to care for the vulnerable in our otherwise “throw away” society? What did we do that has ensured that this group of special people deliver excellent care and support to the elderly and disabled day in and day out since Penrose Care commenced trading in the fall of 2013? What did we do that has caused a small home care provider in north London to attract the attention of health and social care professionals from across the globe?

This is what we did: in a West that has thrown out its roots in the unbridled pursuit of greed, we built a caring organisation that says both in words and in actions to our workers and to those we serve: you have dignity as a human being and this must be respected. This is a guiding truth that surpasses all other inclinations and endeavours. This is what we meant in our founding motto: “home care with a human touch.”

To our workers this recognition of their dignity as human beings first and foremost meant abhorring the idea that workers are a commodity that can be managed via a spreadsheet.

“Labour” is not a production input that you source as cheaply as possible and stack in a warehouse and pull out only when needed.

“Labour” is the sweat and effort of human beings, born from a mother and a father like you and I, who deserve a fair days pay for a fair days work. Penrose Care translated this by becoming one of the first Accredited Living Wage Employers in 2012 amid a social care sector known for poverty wages and sadly, continues to be known for poor working conditions generally. We however, have not and will not be pulled down into the dirty ways of our sector.

“Labour” is the precious time of human beings which must be respected. Penrose Care has translated this by guaranteeing a minimum number of working hours in its contracts the norm amid a social care sector where zero-hour contracts are standard. Although this decision specifically means we cannot grow as quickly as our peers who use people as “just-in-time inventory,” we believe our method builds a more sustainable, resilient and moral organisation. This commitment was enshrined in Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter which also included rolling out an occupational sickpay scheme, something virtually non-existent in home care, to ensure workers do not feel obligated to go to work when ill. To this day, we are as far as we know the only private sector home care provider in the UK to comply with that charter of goodwill.

To our clients, the elderly and disabled, recognition of their dignity as human beings means putting them at the centre of all that we do to ensure the services we provide them are consistently outstanding. It means providing small and consistent teams to help them build trust and to respect their privacy – hence the fundamental necessity of our ethical workplace practices to attract caring people and retain them. It means sending staff who are confident and well-trained so we can help alleviate the stresses of our clients’ daily lives, not add to them. It means knowing those we serve, which is why we comprehensively assess the needs of those we serve and do not provide care visits of less than 1 and a 1/2 hours. It means we recognise the innate value of those we serve even if they are no longer “economically productive”.

As you and I said at the beginning of the Penrose story: to promote a caring workforce the organisation itself must be caring. Over the past five years, we have proven this to be true. And how could it not be true? As you and I simply, although arduously, are providing a living demonstration of the immemorial truth of our species: that every human being is precious. Because they are here, with us, in one human family. And we want to be with our workers, we want to help them live well and to grow. With our clients: we want to be with them.

The honours we have received for our good work in Penrose Care, at home and abroad, have been moving. They have been symbols of a “job well done.” And although we should be proud of our work, I know that you and I will maintain our humility. As you and I both know that we are only doing what we feel is our duty and our obligation to stand up to a culture and a system which is doing wrong, and to fight as hard as we possibly can to do what we know in our hearts to be right.

For the ultimate due, gratitude and praise goes to “The God of Love, The King of Peace,” who in a mysterious way we do not understand inspires us in our mission and in our fight.

My dear Dr. Knight, you and your lovely Spanish wife Elena have become part of my family in my home away from home, the United Kingdom. I am grateful for your friendship and for your collegiality.

We still have much work to do in the years ahead but I am confident we can do it. As Cesar Chavez, the leader of the union movement for which my grandfather belonged to back in California, used to say: “Sí se puede,” Spanish for, “It can be done.”

Thank you.

Yours always,


Robert “Bob” Stephenson-Padron is the managing director and co-founder of Penrose Care.

2017-07-04 (Penrose Care) Founding of Penrose Care

After months of planning, the firm decision to found Penrose Care happened on June 4, 2012 following a meeting Dr. Matthew Knight and Robert Stephenson-Padron had at the eminent hospital the Clinica Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. One month later, Penrose Care was founded.

2017-07-04 (Penrose Care) Media recognition

Over the past five years, Penrose Care’s innovative ethical approach to home care has resulted in the company appearing in numerous mainline media outlet broadcasts.

2017-07-04 (Penrose Care) International recognition

Penrose Care’s approach to delivering consistently excellent care is so unique that research delegations have been sent from abroad to learn from us.

2017-07-04 (Penrose Care) Leadership recognition

Since Penrose Care’s founding, our managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron has twice been named the Most Outstanding Leader in the UK Care Sector.


In 2016, Penrose Care was chosen out of over 1,000 Accredited Living Wage Employers in the London area to be the Living Wage Champion. To put this into context, in another UK region, IKEA won this honour.


Brexit would be dire for social care

Brexit would be dire for social care. Social care is experiencing an unprecedented recruitment crisis as well as many other challenges. (1) Expelling EU nationals currently working in social care and making it even more difficult to fill post going forward could turn a crisis situation into complete turmoil. Voters should recognise that even if Britain had no material funding issues in health and social care, these services cannot be provided without people willing to serve.

The challenges we face from ageing societies are pan-European and therefore we need more Europe-wide coordination in health and social care, not less. (2)

My professional aspiration for the EU would be to see a Europe-wide criminal check system to improve safety, standardised training across adult social care and health care assistants so we can more readily recruit from other EU countries and improve competence, and clearer guidance with respect to paperwork so we can better balance front-line care with compliance.

Further, we in the UK should use the EU to adopt best practice from other EU member countries. What can the UK learn from Estonia’s incredible e-health and data sharing innovations? What can the UK learn from innovative home care training schemes in the south of France? What can the UK learn from Germany successfully turning around failing state hospitals?

A great personal benefit of being a social care professional is you learn to listen to people, identify their needs and sources of suffering or discomfort, and try your best to address them. You are forced to reach out to people with a “I am here to help” rather than close them off and say, “not my problem”. For those who feel we may have some “unwanted migration” into the UK, open migration within the EU gives us the impetus to find out why people in our near abroad are leaving their native country. What can we do to help? Their challenges and suffering become ours. We begin to share hopes and aspirations – the building blocks to a better and more peaceful world.

Conversely, if my neighbour’s house across the street is on fire and I do nothing to help put it out (by calling the fire brigade) because they live across the street, should I be surprised if tomorrow my neighbour and their family come knocking on my door the next day asking for help?

Basic human decency and responsibility needs to also inform our interactions with other countries and our membership in the EU provides a call to do this. We knew this call not too long ago – we need to relearn it.

In 1946, in the aftermath of WWII, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called for the building of a “kind of United States of Europe” to “re-create the European family” as the only way to guarantee peace. (3) French statesmen Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet made Prime Minister Churchill’s aspiration a reality on May 9, 1950 with the Schuman Plan, today known as the birth of the European Union ahead of its formal founding in 1957. (4) Since 1950, Europe has gradually integrated, experiencing an unprecedented period of peace and economic prosperity. (5)

As Prime Minister Churchill predicted, wars between EU member states have been averted, and indeed, as time has passed, thanks to the European Union, Europe has become more whole, (6) which has greatly benefited the social care sector workforce in the UK. (7) This wholeness makes us the UK and we the EU as a whole better able to tackle any challenge, whether it be our ageing crisis or the migrant crisis.

We need to stand in solidarity with our European brothers and sisters with all our problems and challenges. We need to work together to address them. The UK should remain part of and engaged in the European Union.

Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of London-based home care provider Penrose Care that supports the elderly and disabled with social care needs in their own homes. Mr. Stephenson-Padron was named “The Most Outstanding Leader in the Care Sector in the UK” in the 2014 UK Housing Over 50s Housing Awards.

(1) Qwen, Jonathan. “Migrant workers needed to solve UK’s ‘crippling’ shortage of care workers, report says.” (Independent, 17 Nov 2015), available here.

(2)  Kassam, Ashifa et al. “Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster.” (Guardian, 23 Aug 2015), available here.

(3) Winston Churchill: calling for a United
States of Europe (European Commission, Oct 2015), available here.

(4) Robert Schuman: the architect of the European integration project (European Commission, Oct 2015), available here.

(5) Dinan, Desmond. Fifty Years of European Integration: A Remarkable Achievement (Fordham International Law Journal, 2007) v31(50: pgs 1118-1142, available here.

(6) Enlargement: Extending European values and standards to more countries (European Commission, June 2015) available here.

(7) Franklin Ben and Cesira Urzi Brancati. Moved to care: The impact of migration on the adult social care workforce. (Independent Age & International Longevity Centre UK, Nov 2015), pg 4, available here.

Home care workers are every day heroes

By Robert Stephenson-Padron

Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron

Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron

Last week, the Daily Express shed light on the recruitment issues facing the care sector in the article “Workers shun ‘menial’ home care”. As the head of ethical home care provider Penrose Care in London, I want to express my concern over social care work’s current apparent negative image but also offer a message of hope.

That nearly 70% of respondents in the survey the Daily Express covered said they would “shun a job caring for people in their own home” is not surprising. Care work is physically and emotionally demanding and characterised by very low pay. Indeed, cases of minimum wage violations are known to be systemic rather than the exception. So why not do a less demanding job that pays the same or better?

High profile “care scandals” especially since 2009 have further exacerbated a hiring landscape which was already difficult at best.

At Penrose Care, we have a two-pronged approach to recruitment which has allowed us to attract what we call people who have a vocation to care, and retain them. First, Penrose Care put in place concrete ethical workplace standards such as the Living Wage and second, we emphasise that although care work can be demanding, it can also be incredibly rewarding.

In 2012, Penrose Care became one of the first four home care providers in the UK to become an Accredited Living Wage Employer. We also pay for travel time and run an occupational sick pay scheme. These concrete measures, which are expensive and so require courage, send a credible message to people with a genuine vocation to care that we share their values. It should be no surprise then that a good portion of our home care workers are degree-educated but have come to Penrose Care to do work they believe is meaningful.

Care work is meaningful and this needs to be conveyed. Positive psychology teaches us that “meaning” provides us far lasting happiness than “pleasures”. And what price can we put on happiness? I have had the good fortune of not only being the manager, but also on occasions having to work on the front line.

The impact I had on a lonely elderly person’s well being by spending some time with them during a home care visit was strikingly apparent. The laughing and smiling on a person I know had tendencies towards despondency was incredibly powerful to me. The experience conveyed to me strongly that the meaning in our work comes from us giving our time and our humanity.

Physical tasks can be essential but they are part of a greater holistic whole, the whole being that the person you are supporting is continuing their life as normal as they can because of you. And because of you, you the home care worker are their hero, right then, right there. The heroic acts in home care and healthcare are the willingness and openness to listen, the kindness of giving time and space and an attitude of paying attention to detail when we honour the wishes of those who are in our care.

Behind closed doors, in early mornings and during the night, home care workers are our country’s silent workforce doing heroic things every day. They need care providers who are themselves caring, are themselves heroic. We need to get this message out. After all, who doesn’t want to be a hero?

Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of Penrose Care, an ethical home care provider based in Belsize Village, Hampstead, north London.

Taking care of carers

By Dr. Matthew J. Knight, MBBS, BSc, MRCP, PGCERT

Dr Matthew J. Knight

News in yesterday’s BBC health section reports worryingly that older carers are risking their health looking after their loved ones.

A Carer is a person (relative or friend) who takes on the care responsibilities in a voluntary capacity/ non-professional capacity for another person who in some way is restricted in their ability to look after themselves. They are often not trained and would typically be the often-elderly spouse or children of an elderly person (but could for example be elderly parents looking after a child).

Providing physical care can be extremely taxing (ask any nurse or healthcare professional) and many carers have little outside support- meaning that in effect they are providing unpaid care 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Recent data released by Age UK and Carers UK indicated that there are over 1.2 million carers aged over 65 (and a total of 6.5 million Carers across the UK)- and that this has risen year on year over the last decade. Most worryingly though is the fact that there are approximately 90,000 carers aged over 85 years old, who themselves have significant health issues. (1)

These elderly carers are at high risk of neglecting their own health at the expense of caring for their loved ones. The result of Carers not caring for themselves is likely to be increased health morbidity in that population, with the associated increased use of health care services that comes with that.

What are the reasons behind this? The answer is of course multi-factorial. Some of the factors that play a role are:

  • A resistance from the older generation used to fending for themselves to receiving help from strangers.
  • Reluctance to accept that help is needed.
  • Recurrent scandals in the care sector resulting in poor care make selecting a care firm to help challenging.
    • High staff turnover
    • Poor employment practices and low pay within care companies
    • Poor training and staff selection by care companies
  • Financial restraints of commissioning extra care – those with even very modest savings could find themselves footing a large bill. The cap on care costs of £72,000 has gone some way to reassuring people that there is a limit on how much they will pay for care- however the majority of people are unlikely to reach the threshold.
    • If admitted to a care home there is still an expectation to contribute £220 per week for costs of food and lodging
    • Care at home on average costs £160 per week (ranging from £100 up to £2,000 per week for more intensive packages) and Residential care in London costs around £715 per week. (2)
    • The BBC cost of care calculator can be of use for estimating your likely contribution towards care costs
  • A desire to leave a financial inheritance to children and grandchildren to help them with getting on to the property ladder.
  • The process of social, geographic and demographic change within society with an increasingly elderly population, with fewer offspring who live further away has resulted in many elderly not having any form of regular reliable help form close family members.
  • Barriers to accessing help and assistance. The social care maze can be difficult and mind boggling for anyone to navigate- even more so for the elderly and those who are devoting so much time to care. The disconnection between health and social care up to date has made seamless communication between these two vital pillars of care

The successive governments have taken actions to try and reduce the burden of care on relatives and Carers. Many patients that I meet are unaware that they may be entitled to some financial help in the form of the Attendance Allowance if they need help or supervision during the day or night (this starts at the lower rate of £55.10 at the time of writing and increases to £82.30 for those with more intensive needs). In addition to this help may be available in the form of pension credit, housing benefit and council tax reduction.  This help could be used to contribute to commissioning care at home. You may also find that you are eligible for Carer’s Allowance  if you are providing care on a regular basis.

The Care Act of 2014 has gone further than previous legislation to impart a responsibility for care onto local authorities. The Act tries to address the need for care assessments to be driven by needs rather than tailored to types of services available. Local authorities now have an obligation to fully perform care assessments on all that feel that need them, and to be responsible not just for caring for those with needs but also to provide preventative services to help prevent care needs from developing in those at risk of health deteriorating.  In particular the Care Act stipulates that local authorities must provide information on

  • Types of care and support that are available- especially for those with special needs such as dementia care, reablement, etc.
  • The full range of care providers.
  • Where local residents can find independent financial advice to help them plan for care.

Of course, despite all this help a large number of people still are required to pay for the majority of the care they receive up to the threshold. The current squeeze on local authorities budgets has resulted in poor employment practices within the care sector becoming even more prolific- with reports of up to 220,000 professional care workers being paid below the national minimum wage – further compounding the problem of poor quality care that many receive (and the reluctance of many elderly people to be reliant on what they view as low quality unreliable care). (3)

How can I help my parent with care needs?

Being both a doctor and a director at Penrose Care (a home care provider based in Hampstead (NW3) London), this is a question I get asked on a frequent basis. The first stage to this is to accept that there is a problem- be proactive, start planning ahead. It may be that as a child with elderly parents you need to proactively raise this topic in conversation over several weeks or months.

Get a formal assessment of needs- quantify the problems, objectify them, see what help is actually needed. With the Care Act 2014 this process of having a needs assessment should be easier, and your GP should be able to offer advice here. You may also wish to approach a care firm to perform a needs assessment (they usually charge for this service unless you subsequently use their services).

Make sure that you claim in full for financial assistance that may be available (Attendance Allowance, Carer’s allowance, Pension Credit, Housing benefit reduction).  This money could be used towards commissioning ‘respite’ care in the week (for example to pay for a professional carer or support worker to come once or twice a week to provide relief, help with cleaning or domestic tasks, help with physical care or even to provide support for the main carer to have some relaxation time). Sadly, at Penrose Care it is our experience that many Carers do not devote sufficient time or attention to looking after their own health and leisure needs. We often find that by the time we start providing care services to our clients that the main carer or carers are near the point of exhaustion.

Finding other activities that provide enjoyment and respite both to the Carer and the person being cared for is vital. Day centres, friendship centres and activities (such as those advertised on local council websites, Age UK, Carers UK and community and religious groups in the local area) can provide welcome respite and relief for both Carers and those needing care.

How can I choose a good care firm? How do I know that the care firm I use will care for my parents?

Again, over my career this is a question I have been asked very often. It is unfortunate that large numbers of reviews along the lines of ‘customer satisfaction’ seen on websites such as Amazon are not available for care.  My suggestions for helping to find good care firms are :

  • Read the latest Care Quality Commission report for that provider.
  • Read reviews about the provider on NHS Choices.
  • Search on google and look at Google reviews (if any) about the provider
  • Is the provider a Living Wage employer?  Paying the Living Wage (rather than poverty line wages paid by many in the care sector) is a mark that that firm values and cares for its employees- which is a good foundation upon which to build a team of caring carers.
  • Word of mouth- ask around (friends, local groups, GP and practice nurses, etc).

Good questions to ask of a care firm would be

  • What was your staff turnover last year?
  • Are you a Living Wage employer?
  • How many carers will be involved with the care of my parent/ spouse?
  • Are you staff paid for commuting time between shifts (a mark of a care agency committed to looking after its staff is that it follows HMRC guidance on this).
  • What programme of ongoing Continuing Professional Development do your care staff undergo each year?
  • What do you think makes a good care worker? See whether you and your loved ones agree with the answer.

It is unfortunate that in this time of growing need for care there appears to be a lack of care providers committed to high quality compassionate care. However, there are a growing number of them out there and it is worth making the effort to find one.

With growing evidence of the detrimental effects on health of the elderly providing 24/7 care for their loved ones, it is necessary to be proactive in ensuring that sustainable care arrangements are put into place. If they are not, the consequences for the health of the Carer and the person cared for could be catastrophic.

Links to Helpful Websites


(1) Triggle, Nick, “More older carers ‘risking health’”: 30 April 2015 (BBC News, 2015), available online here.

(2) “Care in the UK: The costs you face”: 26 Jan 2015 (BBC News, 2015), available online here.

(3) Ramesh, Randeep, “Care workers being paid below minimum wage”: 29 Aug 2013 (The Guardian, 2013), available online here.

Dr Matthew Knight is a co-founder of Penrose Care and also a hospital physician in north west London with a specialist interest in Respiratory and Internal Medicine.


Promoting the Living Wage in Home Care: Remarks at the House of Lords

Below is a transcript of remarks by Robert Stephenson-Padron delivered at the Citizens UK / Living Wage Foundation event “Promoting the Living Wage in Challenging Sectors” on March 10, 2015 at the House of Lords. The event was hosted by Baroness Jan Royall

My name is Robert Stephenson-Padron, managing director of home care provider Penrose Care. The Living Wage is important to me because in care, I believe that promote a caring workforce the organisation itself must be caring.

To be caring – at its foundation – Penrose Care put in place various ethical initiatives of which the Living Wage is the corner stone, as well as other elements contained in Citizens UK’s landmark Social care Charter: sufficient training, continuity, no short visits, and community engagement.

What have the results been? The results have been a care company which attracts people with a genuine vocation to care, rather than people who have no choice.

Having people in your workforce who genuinely want to care is so important because if you’re a person whose only contact throughout the day is your care worker, it makes a huge difference if that person actually wants to see you.

The ethical care Penrose Care is delivering has also led to business success – which is a testament that doing the right thing can make good business sense. Penrose Care is growing, our customers are ever more satisfied, and our staff morale is always high – it makes it a pleasure to run the organisation.

My work at Penrose Care has proven to me that paying the living wage is a credible message to our employees that we care about them as human beings, and I would encourage all employers who can, to pay the Living Wage.

Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of London-based home care provider Penrose Care that supports the elderly and disabled with social care needs in their own homes. Mr. Stephenson-Padron was named “The Most Outstanding Leader in the Care Sector in the UK” in the 2014 UK Housing Over 50s Housing Awards.

2015-03-10 (Stephenson-Padron, Robert Penrose Care) House of Lords quote photo

Quote photo on Living Wage of Robert Stephenson-Padron from remarks at the House of Lords.

2015-03-10 (Penrose Care) Robert Stephenson-Padron speaking House of Lords

Robert Stephenson-Padron speaking about promoting the Living Wage in home care at the House of Lords (March 10, 2015)

2015-03-10 (Penrose Care) Robert Stephenson-Padron with Baroness Royall

Penrose Care Managing Director Robert Stephenson-Padron with Baroness Jan Royall at the House of Lords (March 10, 2015)

2015-03-10 (Penrose Care) Robert Stephenson-Padron with Living Wage Foundation House of Lords

Penrose Care Managing Director with activists from Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation at the House of Lords (March 10, 2015)

Restoring a culture of dignity in health and social care

By Robert Stephenson-Padron

I have attended many conferences in the past, but I must honestly say, that Saturday’s Health & Social Care Conference of the Catholic Church of England & Wales was the most pertinent I have ever attended.

As the health and social care sector moves from crisis to crisis, most conferences I attend are about how providers must produce more and more paperwork to satisfy reacting regulations and how the crises will persist until chronic underfunding is remedied. This conference, focusing on what we can learn from the Good Samaritan story, was different, it focused on the heart of the matter: that the health and social care sector as a whole has lost its heart.

Revd. Dr. James Hanvey SJ characterised care in England as being reduced to checklists and Revd. Dr. Gerry Arbuckle SM argued that unless there is a cultural change in health and social care, crisis like Mid-Staffordshire will recur.

They argued that currently, respect for human dignity in the sector is too often violated by poor and bureaucratic systems that at times disassociates responsibility of decision makers, fosters bullying, and ultimately leads to material disconnects between providers’ missions to be caring and the reality on the front line.

The social care firm I lead, Penrose Care, recognised these ills of the sector when it was established, and tried something innovative. In a social care sector that the National Audit Office in March found likely pays 160,000-220,000 direct care workers less than the minimum wage, Penrose Care in 2012 became one of the first home care providers in the UK to become an Accredited Living Wage Employer. This meant the starting pay at our firm would be the voluntary hourly rate the Mayor of London estimates is the minimum a Londoner needs to be paid to live in the city decently.

The results? Penrose Care has attracted those with a genuine vocation to care, has very low staff turnover, and delivers care which garners consistent excellent client feedback. Penrose Care built a caring culture. It did this by first respecting the human dignity of those who care: our workers.

Revd. Hanvey argued that every human being’s dignity is honoured and enacted in the care of the disfigured and wounded. I agree. I would also argue that this must include our lowest paid workers – our social care workers, our health care assistants, our domestic staff. Being paid a poverty wage is disfiguring and wounding, it shows lack of respect for the dignity of those who support our mums and dads, our grandparents with their basic needs in hospitals, care homes, and the community; it shows lack of respect to the people who keep our health and social care institutions clean and sanitary.

If health and social care leaders respect the dignity of their lowest workers, I firmly believe it will indeed enact the dignity of their entire workforce, bridging the gap between our mission statements to care for the sick and support the infirm with the reality on the ground.

If we create a culture respecting the God-given dignity of each and every one of us, the necessity of compliance paperwork will reduce and the much needed, much talked about increases in funding will come as society will demand it.

Robert Stephenson-Padron is the managing director of London-based home care provider Penrose Care that supports the elderly and disabled with social care needs in their own homes.

Penrose Care home care worker assisting an elderly man

A Penrose Care home care worker assisting an elderly man in his garden

Dr Matthew Knight

Keep an eye out for enabling technologies out of Google X

Keep an eye out for the latest new technology to come out from Google X, its research division.

A recent acquisition of the firm Life Labs, brings to the Google X portfolio a spoon that uses a series of intricate sensors to compensate for disabling tremors experienced by patients with Parkinson’s disease. This is one such simple lifestyle enhancing technology that will hopefully be available in the not too distant future.

By compensating for tremor, this spoon enables users to feed themselves whilst reducing the risk of spilling the food contents.
Technologies such as these help promote independence and enhance quality of life.
Here at Penrose Care we will be keeping an eye out for these new technologies as they are released and keep our clients and anyone that follows our website and a blog we have on general issues on home care in London.
You can read more about healthcare developments at Google X at the following BBC article from: Google buys firm behind spoon for Parkinson’s patients
Penrose Care

Promoting ethics in social care via social media Part 1

Penrose Care has teamed up with St John’s Hospice in St John’s Wood NW8 and Mestizo Mexican Restaurant in Camden / Euston to help expand Penrose Care’s social impact capabilities on social media.

As the first part of our campaign, we’ll be focusing on attracting new Twitter followers. When our Twitter account (or @PenroseCare) achieves certain follower levels, we’ll do something special:

500 Twitter followers: For our first 500 Twitter followers who also retweet our Tweet or Tweets promoting this campaign, we’ll enter them into our Dinner-for-Two Raffle for a meal at Mestizo Mexican Restaurant. See Terms & Conditions below for more details.

1,000 Twitter followers: Once we achieve 1,000 followers, Penrose Care will donate £100 to St John’s Hospice, a fellow champion of dignity in care.

Penrose Care, London’s ethical home care provider based in Hampstead, north west London, is committed to providing excellent homecare with compassion underpinned by a variety of ethical practices such as paying our support workers the London Living Wage including for travel time spent between client homes, providing top-of-the-range training, and maintaining a generous occupational sickpay scheme. Penrose Care strongly believes that upholding these ethical practices is fundamental to being able to consistently provide high quality care at home to the elderly and non-elderly adults with disabilities we serve.

As a demonstration of its committment to ethics, Penrose Care was one of the first four home care providers in England in 2012 to become an Accredited Living Wage Employer out of nearly 7,000 agencies. Today, Penrose Care is one of four Accredited Living Wage Employers in London’s home care sector out of over 1,000 providers. Further, Penrose Care is proud to be the first independent sector home care provider in England to be compliant with Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter, an ethical pathway for social care providers, including care homes and nursing homes, as well as home care providers.

While we are committed to achieving these aims within our own remit, we believe it is our duty to promote ethical practices in social care to the public and those providers who operate outside of our immediate remit. Hence our commitment to social change through such channels as social media.

Thank you for your support!

About St John’s Hospice

St John’s Hospice, an independent charity located within the Hospital of St John’s and St Elizabeth in St John’s Wood, provides free specialised palliative care to more than 2,000 terminally-ill patients and their families every year.

About Mestizo Mexican Restaurant

MESTIZO is the concept of a group of Mexicans to bring to London a restaurant-bar offering a fine and authentic Mexican cuisine. The name MESTIZO suggests “mezcla” or “fusion”, a term that was utilised principally to designate the descendents of indigenous Mexicans with Spaniards. Our mission at MESTIZO is to bring to London the best that Mexican food has to offer.

Terms & Conditions for Dinner-for-Two Raffle


Participation in Penrose Care’s Dinner-for-Two Raffle is free of charge. Entry is open to persons who are residents of Greater London, 18 years and above in age, and 1) is a person or organisation that is one of the first 500 followers of @PenroseCare on Twitter and 2) retweets one or more of the Tweets @PenroseCare generates to promote this campaign and that includes a link to this web page describing the campaign and this raffle.

Should an organisation win the raffle, they must choose a recipient of their organisation who is a resident of Greater London and 18 years of age or above.

The raffle is not open to Penrose Care employees or those actively involved in the management of the raffle.


The prize will be a £75 voucher with a 30-day expiry for a dinner-for-two, at the following restaurant:

Mestizo Mexican Restaurant

103 Hampstead Road

London NW1 3EL

020 7387 4064

Proof of identity and age may be requested.

By accepting the prize, the winner agrees that Penrose Care Ltd and Mestizo Mexican Restaurant can use the winner’s name and photograph for promotional purposes. Winners may be asked (and agree to) provide a photograph and be photographed if required, and provide comment on being selected as a winner, which may be used to promote future Penrose Care raffles.

Draw date: Within 10 days of @PenroseCare achieving 500 followers. If not achieved by 30 June 2014, the raffle shall cease and not take place.

The draw shall be a random selection of those Twitter followers that qualify.

Unclaimed prize: The winner shall be notified by a Twitter message and then asked to call Penrose Care on 020 7435 2644. If the winner does not claim their prize within 10 days of being informed or if they notify Penrose Care that they are not eligible, the raffle shall be re-conducted as soon as is practicable.

Promoter: Penrose Care Ltd, 9 McCrone Mews, Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BG.

By retweeting a Tweet of @PenroseCare including a link to this page, you agree to these terms and conditions.

The raffle draw is subject to the laws of England and the jurisdiction of the English courts.