Our very own former chairperson, Anne Grant, was recognised with an MBE in the 2020 New Year’s Honours list for services to Carers in Bedfordshire. The award was made in recognition of Anne’s unwavering commitment to the needs of unpaid carers across Bedfordshire, principally through her work with Carers in Bedfordshire. Anne is pictured here with her successor, Emma Wilkinson (right) and former CEO, Helen Satterthwaite.
Anne joined the charity soon after it was founded by Yvonne Clark in 2004 volunteering as a telephone befriender and a trustee. From here, Anne went on to be chair of the charity from 2010 to 2017. She oversaw a period of great change as the organisation evolved into becoming the well-established and respected charity that it is today.
On the news of her honour, Anne said: “During the 13 years I was on the board and the 7 years as Chair, I saw Carers in Bedfordshire’s amazing growth into a professionally run organisation which still retains the family feel for staff and carers alike. I feel hugely privileged to have been associated with such a vibrant and much needed organisation alongside caring for my husband.”
Anne herself has been a carer for her husband, Forbes, for 28 years since he suffered a stroke, leaving him tetraplegic without speech. Anne is a role model, not only as a carer but also for her contribution to the local community in Renhold and for the leadership she showed whilst on the Board of Carers in Bedfordshire.
Paying tribute to Anne’s contribution to the charity in Bedfordshire, Emma Wilkinson current Chairperson said “Anne has drawn on her personal experience as a family carer to help many others in Bedfordshire. It is testimony to Anne’s warmth as a person as well as her determination, that carers should get the best support available through the charity’s services: information, peer support, training and advice. Anne ensured that these services retain a personal feel whilst being delivered in a professional and effective way. We are thrilled that Anne is being recognised for the important work she has done for family carers. She has been instrumental in creating a sustainable support organisation to meet the needs of the growing number and diversity of carers in Bedfordshire.”
Before Carers in Bedfordshire (CiB) started in 2004, there were few if any services provided to support unpaid carers in Bedfordshire, looking after people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to live at home. Anne Grant has played a unique and exceptional role from the early days of the charity.
For 7 years from its incorporation in 2010 to November 2017, she’s been a trustee and the Chair of CiB, setting the direction for its development and driving its growth. From a small support group with an inspirational founder (Yvonne Clark), through to the successful, professionally run and sustainable medium-sized charity it is today, Anne’s contribution has been absolutely outstanding. In the early days, she was a telephone befriender and she has remained close to CiB’s day-to-day operations until she stepped down from the Board in November 2017. In 2010 she had to be coaxed into becoming its Chair, but then took to the role with passion, dedication and a clear vision of what the charity should become. Without her leadership and hard work, CiB would not have become the exemplary carers charity it is widely recognised to be, and carers in the county would not be enjoying the valued levels of support they now receive.
Anne Grant has been influential in the lives of over 8,000 of people who are current or past carers living in Bedfordshire, as well as their ‘cared for’ relatives and friends who, in many cases, would not be able to continue to live at home without support from their carer. She established the charity’s principles and core values, such as being “ … run by carers, for carers …”, sustaining the highest standards of governance and financial prudence, identifying the diverse set of skills needed on the Board and persuading people with the necessary talents and experience to give their time freely under her leadership. She remained closely in touch with the staff, carers and volunteers that are the lifeblood of the charity by generously giving her time to meet them and to keep a watchful eye over the charity’s work. Not much went by un-noticed by Anne’s unceasing attention to detail. She was always well prepared, whether it was for her slot at a staff meeting, Board meeting or the AGM.
Helen Satterthwaite, CiB’s CEO during Anne's time, characterises this when she says: “What makes Anne so special is how she balances the business and the personal. Every time she would come and see me she would have a list of charity items she would want to discuss, e.g. something not quite clear about the latest financial report, or a bit of policy she had read and wanted to reflect on how we should apply it at CIB, to the personal, every time she came in she would go round the office and chat to the staff about their work and how they were as people, and encouraging the Board to spend personal time together through a Christmas and summer lunch”.
Arguably, her greatest achievement has been the way she has been a carer for 25 years, looking after her tetraplegic husband, Forbes, who in 1992 suffered a massive brain-stem stroke at age 49. Anne had a young family at the time and she was able to bring up her two children, arrange for the family home to be adapted to meet Forbes’ needs, organising a series of live-in carers and various support workers. She brought relative normality to family life through her determination not to let their circumstances get in the way of the activities, holidays and everything else that she, her husband and children would expect.
One example of this is her determination to have as normal a holiday as possible: Anne and Forbes arranged to have a van converted to suit Forbes needs. Fully kitted out with hoists, bed with special mattress, disabled toilet, this camper van has been their gateway to freedom for most of the last 25 years. Anne does all the driving, recruits two carers for every year who live in tents and have driven all over Europe for 2-3 weeks a year. They have been featured in a camping magazine for their motorhome endeavours. Anne coordinates everyone so she gets a break too despite the million-and-one lists of things to organise that she has to tick-off every year.
Her son Duncan Grant’s supporting letter gives a poignant insight into Anne’s exceptional character and determination from a family perspective. For many people, being a carer with these demands would consume all of their energy and time. For Anne, it simply raised her awareness of the needs of others and a desire to help them navigate successfully their own way through the demands of being a carer. Anne’s first-hand insight into the demands on, and needs of a carer, together with the communication skills, organising ability and rigour she learned as a research chemist and then a secondary school teacher, provided the inspiration for her to apply her skills to the benefit of the wider community.
Some of her specific achievements at CiB include:
- The transformation of Carers in Bedfordshire from a start-up charity reliant on short-term funding sources into a very well run, medium-sized organisation with over 40 employees, 125 volunteers and over 8,000 registered carers benefitting from a wide range of services and support.
- Securing the charity’s first competitive funding contract in 2010, with two local authorities and the NHS commissioning group, and regular renewals thereafter, including in 2016 when it became a multi-year contract for three years, extendable to five.
- Developing the concept of a Carers’ Lounge, first introduced at Bedford South Wing hospital, and subsequently at the Luton and Dunstable hospital. Many people realise they’ve become a carer in the days after their loved ones have suffered a stroke, been diagnosed with dementia, cancer or another chronic condition. The carers’ lounges, run by Carers in Bedfordshire staff and volunteers, provide immediate support and a gateway to a full set of support services. This has become a model for other hospital-based services in Milton Keynes, Stoke Mandeville and the Isle of Wight, recognised by a national award for Patient Experience in 2016.
- Diversifying the charity’s funding sources through the development of a fundraising function within the charity, securing major grants for specific services from Children In Need, National Lottery and local charities such as the Harpur Trust. Individual donations and bequests have also become a major source of funding over the last 5 years.
- Driving the charity to sustain the quality of its services through innovation, improved use of technology and better ways of working, in response to approximately 1,500 additional carers registering in each of the last 3 years, alongside a 10% reduction in Local Authority funding to the charity.
- Recruiting and motivating a very capable Board comprising local people who bring a wealth of experience to provide the carer-focussed insight and the business skills needed to run an organisation of this size.
Anne has made an outstanding contribution to Carers in Bedfordshire over a long period of time. As President of the organisation I have been able to see at first hand the selfless way she has led the organisation in her role as Chair.
Her exemplary leadership skills in guiding the charity from its early stages through to the highly-regarded organisation is it today, putting the needs of carers and good governance at the forefront of the charity's culture and values has been extraordinary.
Anne has been excellent at identifying, recruitng and retaining a hugely talented team of trustees, managers and volunteers.
I know from seeing Anne work at first hand, and at her final Carers in Bedfordshire event with service users and colleagues, just what a huge dept of feeling there is for Anne, and how greatly she will be missed. Her legacy is a sound financial base for this superb charity, and it would be a great delight to all if Anne could be recognised by Her Majesty for all she has achieved.
I wish to add my voice to others in supporting the application for an award.
Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP
If I may start with a little background; both my mother and father are PhD Chemists, driven by a thirst for understanding.
My mother pursued research until they started a family in 1974, where she put her passion on the backburner, like so many women do, to raise her children. From 1974 to 1987, she tirelessly followed my father from country to country as he was on an expedited career path, managing house move after house move and looking after my sister and I as she did so. In between times my mother did some Chemistry teaching at the various schools we attended, for the love of her subject and because she loves seeing young people develop and learn.
From 1988 she began teaching Chemistry at two public girls schools, starting a ‘Chemistry Club’ (a lunchtime activity for the younger girls), assisted by older students who wanted to help. This became exceedingly popular so there was not enough room in the class. It always had very visual, fun experiments designed to grab the imagination and transfer her passion for understanding how things worked and what could be learned from these experiments. Mums’ Chemistry Club at Dame Alice Harpur Trust Schools’ also won an award.
My father worked his entire career for ICI, during its heyday, until 1992 when he was forced to retire at the age of 49 after suffering a very serious brain-stem stroke. We a believe this was a by-product of his punishing work-schedule which would see him in 3 continents each week, often flying via Concorde in order to make meetings viable. When the stroke happened, we were on a rare family holiday in the Lake District, in a holiday home with no phone. This was the start of a new chapter in our family’s life.
From Cumbria Royal Infirmary and Addenbrookes Head Injuries unit, to Bedford South Wing Hospital, these places became as much a home to my family as our house. Desperate to ignore the impossible prognosis and understand what to expect, Mum researched the subject, only to find precious little written on the subject; as the Consultant at Cumbria first said, there had only been 2 survivors to date chronicled to have survived such a severe brain-stem stroke. My father is the third.
In the years that followed both my mother and father began to write a tome on their experiences and journey, offering some guidance to anyone who may follow. Unfortunately, due to the limited market/audience, the publishing houses they approached, although complimentary about the rationale for the piece, did not see it as a worthwhile investment to publish.
When my father was finally allowed home after some house conversions, my mother set about arranging care for him. This included a live-in carer and visiting carers both morning and evening: a tiring schedule managing low paid, but generally caring staff over the last 25 years.
Given the importance of such people to a family literally dependent on their services, the system is riddled with agencies, who despite their best efforts (on the whole), often rely on unskilled, non-native speakers, who see the job often as bed, board and money to save to continue their travelling. Now a 73-year-old woman, my mother often has to undergo a gruelling 2-day handover/training session to teach each new live-in carer how to look after Dad. This entails manual lifting amongst other things. Sometimes she will have 3-4 different unsuitable carers sent in a row, meaning non-stop involvement on her part. She suffers this with little or no complaining, having accepted the hand she has been dealt.
In 2004, while still teaching, managing Dad’s affairs, managing a household and being our mum, she joined a group called The Eve Project. This voluntary work was designed at offering much needed support to unpaid carers. These are often family members (husbands/wives/friends and in some cases young children). In 2006 The Eve Project became CIB (Carers in Bedfordshire) after securing funding from The Harpur Trust. CIB offered, amongst other services, a friendly and much needed voice at the end of the phone to those in need of support (and personally unsupported by the NHS). This was my mothers’ way of giving something back and helping others who were in need of help/advice/support; something her book was designed to do, but never saw the light of day.
My mother has now been part of CIB for 13 years, as a trustee and, for the last 7 years, as Chair of the CIB Board. She was asked her to take the role due to her compassion, unwavering desire to support others, critical first-hand experience and methodical (Chemistry-teacher/PhD) approach for the good of the charity.
During this time she has led an annual fundraising activity to secure £1m+, of contract funding each year from the Local Authorities and NHS in Bedfordshire. In 2016, CIB won a three-year tender and has become Bedfordshire’s leading Carer organisation, providing supporting those in the community who need it most.
The imaginative ways they have raised much needed additional funds range from bake-sales to sponsored runs (one I was obliged to partake in!) which raised over £10,000 in much needed aid, due to Mum and her colleagues persuading local businesses to match the sum raised in sponsorship. She also started ‘The Pudding Club’, for unpaid carers to get together in an informal, sociable ad trusting space to share experience and advice and have a much-needed group of people who truly understand your challenges …plus there is cake to share! It was initially set up by Mum and the village vicar (Sarah) for the village and surrounding areas and hosted at Mum and Dad’s house. Since Sarah left, Mum has continued the Pudding Club. She considered it vital as there was nothing else catering for this need.
Anne was invited along to Three Counties Radio in Dunstable for an interview with Nick Coffer.
She spoke about her experience as a carer, as a volunteer for and then Chairperson of Carers in Bedfordshire.