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