Notting Hill Genesis has a strong culture of inclusivity with staff networks at the heart of our organisation which has led to the creation of Carers Network supporting all colleagues who care for others alongside carrying out their day jobs.
Learn about our journey to becoming a carer friendly organisation and helping to support staff in need.
At Notting Hill Genesis (NHG) we have several staff groups, representing different groups of colleagues. The networks advocate for their members and meet regularly to review communications and policy and to share experiences to ensure that our workplace is an inclusive environment for everyone.
As part of Carers Week, an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring and to highlight the challenges unpaid carers face in the UK, members of our women’s Beehive network were encouraged to share their personal stories. This led to Natalie Quilter, Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Lead (Operations Manager at the time), taking a courageous step by sharing her personal story on being a carer for her mother who has multiple sclerosis (MS).
The story explored the rewards and challenges of being an unpaid carer and supporting a family member or friend who has a disability, illness or mental health condition. It helped inspire our organisation and members of staff who expressed their gratitude and offered support as a fellow carer creating a united group.
This inspired Natalie (pictured with her family) to put the steps in place to create a carer-friendly organisation at NHG by forming a Carers Network, offering practical and emotional support to our members of staff who care for others alongside carrying out their day jobs.
- Natalie Quilter, Diversity Inclusion and Wellbeing Lead, Notting Hill Genesis
Natalie was at the forefront of collaborating with a range of colleagues from across the business. This included working with our former Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing lead to discuss how to go about starting the new Carers Network and the process to follow. Further work was required with our Inclusion Steering Group so Vipul Thacker, Group Director of Central Services presented evidence highlighting the gap within our networks and the need to support carers in the organisation.
The process took around two weeks, and once finalised the proposal was shared with the Executive Board to confirm the new Carers Network would have a sponsor at leadership level. All networks at NHG have an Executive Board sponsor, not only for visibility, but to ensure that issues raised are brought to the top of the organisation so real change can be made.
Katie Bond, Group Director of Sales and Building safety at NHG volunteered to sponsor the Carers Network – as a working mother with indirect experience of caring responsibilities she also had a personal connection with the group.
The Carers Network at NHG was officially launched in February 2020, starting with a kick-off Lunch and Learn Event at head office. This gave staff the opportunity to learn more about the new group. Little did we know this would be the last in-person event for some time due to covid-19 pandemic.
The event attracted colleagues from across the business who shared their personal stories and experiences of being a carer which is often behind the scenes, unpaid and taking care of loved ones outside of work hours. Everyone recognised the importance and relief in being able to share stories with people that understand.
Following the first session, we realised the group was different compared to other networks, as although we wanted to change organisational practices, our main purpose now was to provide ongoing support for carers and ensure they had someone to speak to who understood their plight.
Moving into the pandemic, the Chair of the Carers Network set up weekly informal catch ups via Microsoft Teams, allowing members to check in with one another and also provide support when needed.
- Carers Network member, Notting Hill Genesis
The biggest impact has been seeing carers put in a leading role rather than behind the scenes.
Internally, we have seen a large impact on organisational development and visibility, including:
We’ve further demonstrated our commitment to carers at NHG by signing up to Harry’s Pledge, a national campaign to support unpaid carers. This is the latest milestone for our Carers Network created for all colleagues who care for others alongside carrying out their day jobs.
Everyone is proud that NHG is supporting carers and making it publicly known that we are a carer-friendly organisation. Since its creation, our Carers Network has welcomed many new members and is proving invaluable in sharing experiences and offering practical and emotional support to people who are typically behind the scenes heroes.
- Housing team member, Notting Hill Genesis
Starting a new staff network is a difficult task, but launching it just before a global pandemic brought a new set of challenges. Although the initial group met in person it was tough trying to support and interact with new members while adapting to the challenges presented by covid-19.
A big promotional campaign was run by all our staff networks to highlight their purpose and further support available to staff during the pandemic. We needed to use a variety of communication channels to reach a large audience.
The launch of our Carers Network came at an important time, as due to the pandemic more staff became carers for the first time which led to an increasing membership. We ultilised virtual platforms to keep in contact and provide support via Microsoft Teams, allowing carers to share their stories, challenges, and concerns in an emotionally safe space.
Through conversations with colleagues we established many people did not identify themselves as a carer, especially those from an ethnic minority background.
To address this and as part of our staff conference on Black culture, history and race equality, we led a session called A I a Carer? exploring how your culture can and has influenced you into thinking you are not a carer.
The session resulted in an increase of new members joining our Carers Network with 75% of participants from an ethnic minority background. As an orgnisation we had successfully helped ethnic minority staff to better understand their responsibilities as carers and learn about the formal support available for them to receive.
This was followed by the network focusing our efforts on the work required in wider society to ensure carers understand their rights by partnering up with a West London based carers network supporting employees in the housing sector and their residents. This ranged from providing information about understanding your rights to seeking financial support from your local authorities.
Following the launch of the NHF’s EDI report that highlighted the need for housing associations to better understand the make-up of their workforces, we decided to collect more data as an organisation to identify staff with caring responsibilities.
Currently, there is only 1% and 4% of workforce data available in the sector for caring responsibilities, which was the largest gap identified in the report alongside socio-economic status.
Data has been difficult to collect in this area, but the first step in trying to understand the caring landscape at NHG was to update our diversity strands section in our annual staff satisfaction survey by including an array of different types of caring responsibilities. This resulted in the first real understanding of how many carers exist within our organisation, so we can try and support different groups further, including those caring for an adult.
Although the Carers Network has made great strides, an ongoing challenge is tackling certain stigmas around being a carer and the perceptions that it can impact career progression. To protect members from the fear of judgment, our network is private and we ask staff to submit a short description of their experience as a carer ensuring the group is a safe space for all involved.
We have learned of the importance of visibility, with stories from senior management level sharing their experiences having a profound impact on their team and across the business. We know there is still a long way to go with our Carers Network but we are proud to have started the journey and hope many more housing associations will follow in our footsteps.
- Katie Bond, Group Director of Sales and Building Safety, Notting Hill Genesis