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Health regulator praises Penrose Care’s pandemic heroism

Belsize Village, London, UK – The Care Quality Commission (CQC), England’s health and social care regulator has published a new inspection report for Penrose Care, reiterating and expanding our Outstanding rating. The report was published on March 3, 2022 following an inspection taking place on November 25, 2021 and therefore our first inspection since the onset of the Global Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020-22.

There are 426 (2.1%) home care providers in England rated as Outstanding out of 19,914 and there are 39 (1.1%) Outstanding home care providers in London out of 3,699.

Following the report, Penrose Care Manager director Robert Stephenson-Padron made the following statement:

“The health regulator’s expansion of Penrose Care’s Outstanding rating, despite the immense challenges from the Global Pandemic and Brexit further confirms the exceptionalism and heroism of Penrose Care. A special thank you to our co-founder Dr Matthew Knight MBE and all the heroes I work with, especially manager Olga Garcia, who surely is the best social care logistics expert in Europe, or possibly the world. We have achieved so much in 10 years: 1) Having no Covid staff or client deaths during the Global Pandemic of 2020-22; 2) Starting the UK’s al fresco dining movement after Lockdown 1 via the Belsize Village Streatery and successfully revitalising Belsize Village as the managing organisation of the Belsize Village Business Association; 3) Having delivered PPE to health providers during the national shortage during Lockdown 1; 4) Innovating through pet therapy via our amazing feline colleagues Pelusita and Quita; 5) Twice being named the Most Outstanding Home care provider in the world; 6) Spreading our wisdom to numerous foreign governments working to tackle their own care crises; 7) Twice being awarded by the Living Wage Foundation for our work promoting the Living Wage movement; 8) Having transformed Britain’s social care sector single handedly in 2014 by causing the minimum wage to be enforced in our sector and 9) Pioneering labour ethics in the UK’s home care sector once mired by systemic criminality and exploitation prior to the reforms we initiated.”

Dr Matthew Knight MBE, co-founder and non-executive director of Penrose Care, said following the report:

“I am so proud to see the continued dedication and hard work of the Penrose Care team reflected in the latest CQC report. Their dedication to care is inspiring.”

Olga Garcia, Penrose Care manager, who was instrumental in the inspection process, said:

“I am very proud to be part of Penrose Care since 2014. During all these years Penrose Care has proved that following the law and doing the job properly is possible. During the Pandemic, the whole team made sure that all of our clients were safe and in excellent company. No matter how many difficulties we had to pass including isolating and replacing workers at great speed, we have been able to do what we always do but with the added confidence that we have the correct personal protective equipment (PPE) and support from an incredible team. I am grateful to be with Penrose Care and to serve our clients during these most challenging times.”

Pandemic heroism

We are celebrating having no Covid deaths amongst our clients or staff during the Global Pandemic of 2020-22. Indeed, since the pandemic started, we have had only one client contract Coronavirus, asymptomatically and after July 19, 2021 “Freedom Day.” This is a testament to the professionalism of our staff and the speed and foresight of our management. Penrose Care’s stability during the pandemic has given us the resources to help other health and social care providers and our wider community during the pandemic. During Lockdown 1, before the new NHS PPE supply system to health and social care was setup, we delivered PPE to Watford General Hospital and Marie Curie Hospice Hampstead.

Pandemic meeting

Online meeting during the height of the pandemic led by Penrose Care manager Olga Garcia.

2020-04-09 (Penrose Care) Delivery of PPE to Watford General

Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson-Padron delivering personal protective equipment (PPE) to Watford General Hospital on April 9, 2020. Pictured with Dr Andrew Barlow, Consultant Chest Physician and Divisional Director of Medicine at West Herts Hospitals and Paddy Hennessy, Director of Environment at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

Pet therapy

During the pandemic, Penrose Care has demonstrated innovations in social care especially via the utilisation of pet therapy. Penrose Care’s therapy cat, Pelusita. owned and managed by Olga Garcia spent 9 months with a client with dementia during the Coronavirus pandemic. This substantially improved the client’s quality of life.

Further, our office cat, the pet celebrity Quita the Kitty, has continued to lift spirits digitally during the pandemic – work recently praised in the Sun on Sunday newspaper. Quita was also recently named London’s Number 1 Instagram Cat by Time Out London magazine.

2020-10-10 (Penrose Care) Pelusita at work 02

Penrose Care’s therapy cat owned and managed by Olga Garcia spent 9 days with a client with dementia during the Coronavirus pandemic. This substantially improved the client’s quality of life. Thank you Pelusita, you’re a hero too! Photo from October 10, 2020.

Quita in Sun newspaper

Quita in the Sun on Sunday newspaper on January 16, 2022 for her pandemic herorism.

Technical assistance to foreign governments

Penrose Care is known internationally due to its pioneering work on integrating ethical labour practices into its provision of home care services for the elderly and persons with disabilities. Within the UK and in many countries around the world, providing consistent, outstanding social care from care and support workers that receive a Living Wage and generous worker benefits remains an aspiration but is a reality at Penrose Care. Penrose Care was also the organisation that successfully led to the step up of enforcement of the minimum wage laws in home care in the UK after lodging a complaint with the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee in 2014. Prior to this industry-changing action, the minimum wage law was widely flouted by home care providers in the UK. Over the years, Penrose Care has provided technical assistance to numerous governments attempting to solve their own care crises. Since our last CQC inspection prior to the one in November 2021, we hosted the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEP) under the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Government of Thailand a delegation from Gwangyang, South Korea in June 2019.

Thai delegation with Penrose Care management in Belsize Terrace

Delegation from the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, Government of Thailand, with Penrose Care’s Nikoletta Makouli, Robert Stephenson-Padron, Quita the Kitty and Olga Garcia at Belsize Terrace in Belsize Village, London, UK.

Revitalisation of Belsize Village

The CQC report refers to Penrose Care’s instrumental role in the successful and remarkable revitalisation of its north London community, Penrose Care. As the primary managing organisation of the Belsize Village Business Association (BVBA), Penrose Care launched the Belsize Village Streatery on July 4, 2020. As the first event of its kind in the UK after Lockdown 1 of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Belsize Village Streatery is the pioneer of the UK’s alfresco experiment during the pandemic. The Belsize Village Streatery provided alfresco dining on Belsize Terrace, our village square, allowing the elderly and disabled the ability to dine socially after Lockdown 1. The Belsize Village Streatery not only sparked numerous other streateries across the UK – such as the beautiful streatery in Duke of York Square, Chelsea – it helped save over 100 hospitality jobs in Belsize Village, beautified our village square, saved the village from having any high street business losses during the pandemic and in fact led to the creation of two new businesses, helped transform our once scantily used village square into a vibrant community hub, led to our community’s first ministerial visit in modern history and coincided with our Clean Belsize Village program which eliminated the historic rubbish mound on our village square and drastically cut down on flytipping and littering.

On February 11, 2022, Camden Council made the Belsize Village Streatery permanent, the first event of its kind to be made permanent in British history.

Transformation of Belsize Village

Penrose Care engineered a dramatic revitalisation of Belsize Village in north London as the managing organisation of the Belsize Village Business Association.

Widespread recognition

The heroism of Penrose Care has been widely recognised. Since our last prior to our November 2021 inspection, Penrose Care was named the Most Outstanding Homecare Provider in the World in December 2019. Further in October 2020, Penrose Care’s co-founder was granted a MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for pandemic heroism to the NHS and our managing director was thanked by Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London, on September 1, 2021 for sparking the UK’s “al fresco experiment” via the Belsize Village Streatery, an event originally intended to allow the elderly and disabled to dine safely after Lockdown 1 of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Dr Matthew Knight MBE

Dr Matthew Knight MBE

Bob Stephenson Padron with Sir Kenneth Olisa

On September 1, 2021, Penrose Care managing director Robert Stephenson Padron met with Sir Kenneth Olisa OBE, HM Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London. Sir Ken is the personal representative of the monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, in Greater London. Sir Ken thanked Bob for starting the UK’s al fresco movement with the Belsize Village Streatery.

Media Contact

Robert Stephenson-Padron – 020 7435 2644

About Penrose Care

Penrose Care is an ethical provider of home care services in London, United Kingdom to adults with disabilities such as acquired brain injury and elderly persons including those with dementia. The company operates upon a fundamental belief that to promote a caring workforce, the organisation itself must be caring. As the pioneer of ethics in home care in the UK, Penrose Care in 2012 became one of the first four providers in the United Kingdom to become an Accredited Living Wage Employer and in 2013 the first independent sector provider to be compliant with Citizens UK’s landmark Social Care Charter. Penrose Care was named the Living Wage Champion for the London region in 2016 and for Industry Leadership in 2018 by the Living Wage Foundation. In July 2019, Penrose Care was named as one of the first 16 private businesses accredited with the Mayor of London’s new Good Work Standard to promote decent work in London.

Penrose Care’s ethical social care framework has garnered international acclaim, resulting in Penrose Care receiving research delegations from Canada, China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Penrose Care is rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, the highest rating given by England’s health and social care regulator.

Penrose Care’s ethical approach promotes higher quality social care workers and low staff turnover which in turn results in excellent care. Penrose Care is headquartered in Belsize Village, north London – between Hampstead, Belsize Park and Swiss Cottage / Finchley Road – and was founded by Robert Stephenson-Padron, a healthcare research analyst, and Dr. Matthew Knight MBE, a hospital physician.

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” (www.rabbisacks.org: 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.