In an unprecedented year of challenges, Julia’s House, the Dorset and Wiltshire children’s hospice, has been ranked 12 in the Top 30 Charities nationally in the 2021 Best Companies survey – the highest ranked hospice or palliative care charity in the UK (announced 21 May). The local charity has been ranked 70th in the Large Companies list compiled by the national survey.
Julia’s House retained its 2-star ranking, officially described as ‘Outstanding’, despite the charity having been severely impacted by lockdown and social distancing restrictions. At one point up to 60 per cent of its staff were furloughed, with its shops closed for several months and fundraising events postponed or cancelled.
“It’s been an extraordinary year and our staff have been amazingly resilient,” said Diane de Souza, Julia’s House Human Resources Director. “Whether they were furloughed or carried on working through lockdown, it’s been a very tough twelve months for our team. They’ve had to cope with the closure of our offices, hospices and shops on top of the home life challenges we’ve all had to face, such as not being able to see family and friends and the dreaded home-schooling. We’re so proud of everyone’s contribution and also thrilled that in turn, our staff have felt valued and supported by the organisation during such a challenging time and helped us maintain our Outstanding Best Companies ranking.”
During the pandemic, Julia’s House put in place extra communication with its staff and volunteers to keep them in touch, developed a dedicated well-being programme featuring a range of topics from training on how to adapt to working from home and avoiding zoom fatigue to relaxation techniques and yoga sessions. Plus the charity drew on its existing Employee Assistance Programme to provide emotional and practical support for staff.
Diane added: “We really tried to be as supportive a team as possible, recognising the additional stress our staff and volunteers were under – many of our volunteers were vulnerable and shielding. We took extra care and time to check in with everyone even though we were apart, including our furloughed staff.”
Comments from Julia’s House staff reflected the charity’s commitment to staying in touch and staff well-being. A member of the Care team said: “Working throughout the pandemic was challenging, especially in the early days but it was also rewarding in equal measure. We had to learn to quickly adapt to the ever changing restrictions, the changes to our processes and how we provide support and care to the families. The nursing team were and continue to be incredibly well supported throughout and I felt worries and fears were listened to even when there wasn’t a solution to be found. One of the retail staff commented: “Although like most of the retail team, I was at home, I was still made to feel an important part of the Julia's House family. Communication was great throughout the lockdown, reassuring us, mapping out our next steps, expectations and phased return. Personally, I felt very supported by the whole Julia's House team and their continuing emails and newsletters.”
The charity also adapted its care service overnight. Already delivering 60 per cent of its care in the local community, overnight 100 per cent of its vital support for life-limited children was now in families’ homes. Often already isolated, these seriously ill children and their families were highly vulnerable and fearful, so the lifeline of care Julia’s House provided was critical to keep them safe and well at home and relieve pressure on local health services. The charity deployed the highest level of PPE to reassure families over safety, putting additional demand on nurses and carers, particularly in the summer heatwave.
Martin Edwards, Julia’s House CEO, concludes: “After such a gruelling year in healthcare, we were thrilled to feature prominently in the 100 Best Companies and Top 30 Charities nationally. Everyone has gone the extra mile to help the children and families in our care. We have seen the very best of our people during this extraordinary year.”
Best Companies are employee engagement specialists helping organisations measure, improve, and recognise workplace engagement. The Best Companies to Work For Lists and Best Companies Accreditation are the standard of employee engagement and are compiled annually. The results are compiled from an independently conducted, anonymous and confidential annual survey of the Julia’s House staff about their wellbeing, pay and benefits, personal growth, team, leadership and other aspects of the organisation to enable secure and honest feedback.