I spent yesterday at the ARCO (Associated Retirement Community Operators, the representative group for retirement villages in the UK) AGM, Board Meeting and Forum in central London. A room full of inspiring, smart and dedicated people.
All the major figures in the sector – private and charity, were there. Most are substantial organisations – Middleton Hall has the distinction of not just being the most northerly but probably the smallest member as a privately owned single site operator.
ARCO provides a great networking forum for the exchange of ideas and everyone is eager to help each other in what is a small but rapidly growing sector. The sector is small enough that we do not compete with each other and ultimately we are all trying to deliver a quality service so there is a recognition that we can all continue to improve and grow by working together.
I attend and informally chair the Operations Management Forum where the ARCO Operations Directors have discussed catering models, IT, training and many other issues during the last year. The aim is to share and spread best practice around the sector.
ARCO is also very aware of the dangers of worst practice though. Everyone knows of the various failures in the care home sector and we are determined to make sure that standards are set for retirement communities to prevent any such problem in our sector as it grows.
So the biggest achievement this year has been the launch of the ARCO Consumer Code. This is a commitment to ensure that ARCO members provide a trusted and high quality service to those living in, and considering moving to, a retirement community. Middleton Hall was one of the first retirement villages to be assessed under the Consumer Code and all ARCO members are in the process of being approved by an independent assessor against the code. The code can be downloaded from our website.
To set the standards and ensure compliance, ARCO has set up a five person Standards Committee with an independent chair to review standards and deal with any compliance issues or complaints. Although Middleton Hall is a small player in ARCO, I was pleased and flattered to be elected yesterday to the Standards Committee. It is a reflection on the understanding that quality and standards are at the heart of Middleton Hall that I was asked to stand – we are not expected to present any difficulties in adhering to the code ourselves and our commitment to continuous improvement is well known.
I was asked by someone after the meeting why I had upped sticks from London and decided to take on Middleton Hall almost 20 years ago. It was simple, I said. I saw an opportunity to make a difference. And that is what successful, high quality retirement villages should do – create facilities and a community that people want to move to – and make a positive difference to their lives.