The Laurels was awarded 'pilot site' status by Skills for Care for developing a new role of 'social care supporter' at the Laurels Care Home. This role encapsulates a person centred approach to caring for older people which respects them as individuals and where care is arranged around their needs. Within the new role the Laurels introduced a person centred skills programme for older people, which is facilitated by their key worker and in partnership with the person and their family.

The Laurels Care Home was invited by Lorraine Haining, Community Manager , Older Peoples' Services at the North Cumbria Mental Health &Learning Disabilities NHS Trust, to represent the independent sector in a multidisciplinary team to develop an educational programme which meets the needs of older people with mental health problems in care homes. The team was called 'CHESS' (Care Home Education Support Service) and its membership represents not only secondary and tertiary care, but also private health care. The team also included social workers, local health care trust managers, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. The CHESS team attended the Clinical Governance Development Programme from October 2002 to July 2003. And, on the 6th October 2003 the CHESS team was presented with the 'Nursing Times' National Award for excellence in nursing older people.

Training Provider

In order to deliver the quality of service that is necessary and service users, governments and regulatory bodies expect, the Laurels embraces staff training and continuuing professional development. The Laurels set up a City & Guilds training company called Beecaretrained Ltd in 2002. The aim was to be able to train the Laurels social care supporters whilst them gaining a nationally recognized NVQ in Health & Social Care. City & Guilds is the foremost provider of vocational qualifications in the health and social care sector with dedicated development, quality assurance and quality improvement teams.

City & Guilds NVQ's in Health and Social Care are now the benchmark qualifications in this area. They are in line with a large number of initiatives and codes of practice including national service standards in social care and the Agenda for Change in the NHS.

The NVQs are accredited by both QCA and SQA. They are based on the National Occupational Standards agreed by the Sector Skills Councils and represent agreed best practice. This means that they are the qualifications most widely recognised by the health and social care regulators, workforce development organisations and employers as the benchmark for the sector.

The Laurels NVQ qualifications are work based awards and candidates' skills and knowledge are assessed in the workplace whilst they are working directly with individuals and colleagues. NVQs allow for evidence to be given by an identified expert witness as to the candidates' competence. Thus, the NVQ confirms initial competence to practice safely with people residing in the Laurels.

Learning should continue throughout a social care supporters career, and should enable them to develop new skills and to keep the skills they have up to date to ensure they are working in accordance with current best practice. In addition to the full NVQ in Health & Social Care, the Laurels uses the City & Guilds unit route for continuing professional development.