Good inspection brings pride to care provider that pushed through pandemic

Rhiannon Richards, managing director of Sunflower Homecare

Rhiannon Richards set up Sunflower Homecare in late 2019 and said leaving her job at an Ipswich care home was 'a risk' - Credit: Rhiannon Richards

Making the decision to start a social care business was a big one for Rhiannon Richards - even without a global pandemic changing all plans - and she says a positive first inspection "means the world".

Sunflower Homecare was launched in 2019 after the 28-year-old left her job managing an Ipswich care provider.

She began her career as a carer and quickly realised how much she loved it, rising up to her first registered manager post when she was 21 years old.

Her late great-nana Glad and her love of sunflowers was the inspiration to create a care provider known for bringing a little bit of sunshine into people's lives.

Persuaded by partner James and teaming up with her first boss Toni Claydon, Sunflower Homecare began the lengthy process of registering only to a few months later be hit by the first lockdown.

She said: "This year has been a bit more settled but last year was absolutely crazy. We were really fortunate that we were able to still push through because it could have led to us having nothing.

"When we started we had a couple of clients, but couldn't do personal care until our CQC registration was complete, which was a really lengthy process.

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"By February 2020 we had about six clients, none of whom really depended on us for daily living - so when it came to lockdown the risk of us going in was greater than them not having the support. They pretty much all cancelled us in the space of 24 hours.

"A lot of time and financial investment went into Sunflower, so this was pretty crushing. I had no choice but to put Toni on furlough, and I went to support my dad in his business to earn some money, as I had no income."

Working at her dad's fruit and veg wholesale business, she delivered each client who was isolating a fruit and veg box, a venture her dad continues through a home delivery service to this day. 

Suffolk County Council awarded Sunflower Homecare its accreditation in summer 2020.

Miss Richards said: "At one point we had more than 50 clients, it's been crazy. People have been kind enough to leave lovely reviews, and word of mouth has really helped.

"We have managed to build up a good reputation in such a short space of time and for that, I am super proud of my team of carers, as well as Nicky Dennis our risk assessor, and Toni."

In its first ever CQC, the provider was rated good across the board, from leadership to safety to effectiveness.

Feedback gathered from people using the service, as well as staff and relatives, was complimentary and positive, with several saying they would recommend Sunflower Homecare to others.

Miss Richards said it "meant the world" to receive these comments.

She said: "I've gone through previous inspections as a manager of other care providers and both were good, like this one, but this is my baby. As a team, we've built it from the ground up, something I never thought imaginable.

"The business was named after my great-nana Glad's favourite flower and it's so lovely to feel like she'd be proud if she was here. I walk through my office door each morning, see a photo of her on the shelf and that gives me the motivation I need to treat every single client like they were my own family.

"Through everything that we've been through, it feels good to have the validation that I was right in leaving my job, in taking the risk. I've achieved what I wanted to achieve.

"My great-nan - in the last few months of her life I wish she'd had someone to look after her, wash her, make sure she was okay, but that generation can be very stubborn. We wanted to change that perception and make people comfortable with people coming into their home, and caring for them.

"And I wanted to make the staff feel valued and recognised as professionals as they should be.

"We call ourselves a sunflower family and that's how we want to keep it. We want people to get the best care."