Tag Archives: business

Careimages, quick on the draw

Careimages is growing; month on month more people are visiting the site, registering and subscribing. And we’re reacting to what our clients want by doing new shoots. Next week, we are working on a shoot with a service user with mental health problems to portray the issues in his life; other shoots in the pipeline include vulnerable elderly at home and drug abuse.

We are very proud to launch a new and exciting aspect to the site in the form of illustrations. We have teamed up with a very talented painter/illustrator, David Fortune whose abstract work in his native Ireland is gaining critical acclaim. We gave David a brief to provide a range of illustrations depicting aspects of childhood along with concepts like fear and abuse. For a few of the sketches, such as the one on the left, he did a re-interpretation of a real-life photo that we already had. Not only does the stylisation often make an image like this more powerful, but it also offers flexibility in representing what can often be difficult subjects. We believe the illustrations we launch today reflect and represent our community and show art as powerful and emotive tools in helping us come to terms with our world.

We are looking for more ideas for our illustration category so please do tell us what you think and what you may like to see. if there are any specific illustrations you need, we would be pleased to arrange them as a custom service. For this or if you’d simply like advice as to how this type of art can be used in context with your publicity materials please contact us on 020 7254 1500 or by email to enquiries@careimages.com

Caring for your customers

It’s a truism in sales that it’s usually a lot more expensive to find new customers than it is to keep old ones. That’s why good customer service is so important. Yet it seems so many companies, especially large ones, forget this until an account closure is imminent.

circuit boardTo save their blushes, I won’t name them publicly, but I recently encountered atrocious support from our old hosting provider. To give the best service to you we run a dedicated server. For the past three years I’d been very happy with our setup. The server had been reliable and stable, the only downtime being during scheduled maintenance. Admittedly I hadn’t had to ask the company for anything much as everything just worked. However as our picture collection grew (over 11,000 pictures now) we were getting to the point where we needed a larger hard disk on the server.

I contacted the hosting company and was pleased to find that they would fit a new disk for a one-off charge. There was only one slight problem, our server, being an older model, was not compatible with the latest types of disks on the market. Would this be a problem I asked? Not at all was the reply, our engineers will sort everything out. So, a time for the upgrade was agreed (outside office hours so as not to disrupt normal business), and I backed everything up and notified everyone who needed to know.

The evening of the upgrade arrived, I arranged to work late, to make sure everything went smoothly. The time for the server to go offline arrived, but nothing happened. Instead I got an email from the hosting company’s engineer tasked with the work. “Unfortunately, your server is not compatible with the disks we use for upgrades”…

To cut a long story short, no upgrade happened. Instead there were weeks of exchanges between myself and the company’s sales department. They said I should go for a new server, I asked what deal they’d give me, no deal was offered. Communication was further complicated by the relevant salesman seemingly not having a full grasp of the technology he was selling. Eventually I’d had enough and looked at other providers in the market.

As things turned out, I was able to get a better server at a lower price than I’d been paying and I have no hesitation in naming our new providers as Poundhost.

The transition to the new server has been fully completed, with minimal disruption. Of course, our old company has recently started ringing the office trying to keep our business…

Be assured that if anyone has any service issues with Careimages we will strive to address the matter within one working day and usually much more quickly. Our customers matter to us.

Your chance to subscribe for free!

Paypal bannerThat’s right… if you subscribe anytime from now until the 20th of December 2009 and choose to pay by credit/debit card then you have a chance of winning back all the money you spend in a weekly draw hosted by our payment processor, Paypal.

In fact this applies to all payments made via Paypal, not just subscriptions. If you’re feeling lucky you could win back a payment of up to £5,000. So consider that company credit card instead of paying an invoice manually and you could be your finance director’s new best friend.

Full details can be found on the Paypal site at https://www.paypal-marketing.co.uk/campaigns/win/.

Small ideas can make a big difference in Care Homes

The default style of brochures advertising care homes for the elderly usually involves a mission statement, philosophy of care, a commitment to giving people choice and dignity, three-star Michelin meals and an array of activities that would make a Chelsea socialite turn bright green.

Care home nurse and residentThe reality of course, can be very different even in the so-called better private facilities. I know quite a bit about care homes for the elderly; in my previous life as a social worker and commissioning manager I used to buy beds and conduct audits on out-of-borough placements. In the last few years in my work at a design company specialising in the care sector, Create Services, and more recently for Care Images I have been part of the other side of the service in trying to provide a positive image of care homes to potential purchasers.

Of course, all homes are equal under inspection law but some are more equal than others in what they provide. And it’s the little things that make the big difference; how much more is it on a home’s budget to add value to the product by serving wine at dinner or provide the football free through Sky Sports? One home we did a brochure for refurbished the basement into a specialist gymnasium for older people and an adjoining mini cinema with weekly screenings of golden oldies like Brief Encounter (one of my all time favourites).

Another home cut a deal with a local Blue Square Conference football team and took some of the residents to the home games; I saw a feature on TV news a few weeks ago with a drama group doing reminiscence therapy with residents. In short, there are plenty of creative ways to provide care without breaking too much into the profit margins.

Living in a care home may seem like the worst of all possible options but is living at home in the so-called ‘community’ that good if you are stuck in a high-rise flat unable to afford the heating while waiting for a less than appetising meals on wheels?

I have had the pleasure of working with some outstanding care homes both as purchaser and provider of marketing materials. As soon as you walk in you can feel that there is something special about the place; the staff are enjoying their work, residents are clearly content and maximising their abilities and purchasers, whether self or LA funded, are getting value for money. And you know what the interesting thing is; the homes I am talking about are not always the most plush, they just know how to care for people.

The big bucks should stop here

Care assistant comforting elderly womanWatching Panorama’s expose of home care in the UK Britain’s Homecare Scandal I was not so much shocked as angry. It is hardly news that domicilliary home care providers are seemingly putting profits before people. Given that the raison d’etre of such companies is to make money (the city Hooray Henry with his red braces adhered to the bounties to be made in providing care) it is surely up to the local governments awarding these massive contracts to do something about the disgraceful standards to which some of these companies stoop. If I was paying around £2m for a service I would want to make sure I was getting bloody good value for money.

Of course, those on the shop floor earning the minimum wage plus a few pennies are not the cause of service users missing food, baths and medications; they are doing their best to manage in impossible situations. And it’s all well and good one director of social services telling the programme that they will not be renwing Care UK’s lucrative contract but the question was left hanging as to why she had not terminated the contract with the company immediately.

I think we should take a long hard look at whether private companies are actually able to meet the demands of caring for thousands of people following an on-line tendering process that resembled the Black Jack table at MGM Las Vegas. When I was a social worker these services were provided by LAs and yes, they were inefficiently run and staff were unionised and paid more but you know what, I never heard of vulnerable old people being left to rot in their own faeces.

Think about it; companies whose sole motivation is to make profits (and some of these companies also have a motivation to keep shareholders sweet) have little interest in providing the basic minimum to keep the inspectors happy. Are such companies really fit for such an important purpose of looking after our loved ones?

Positive without discrimination

I spent a good part of my previous working life as a social worker trying to get adults with learning disabilities a better deal. But you know how it is; ‘they’ are recipients of care, funding and a pat on the back when the local MP visits the day centre churning out toys that go with a McDonald’s kids’ meal. But the times may be a changing thanks to a very progressive combination of the Down’s Syndrome Association, caring parents and local authorities who are committed to a combination of the words ‘social’ and ‘service’.

James at workEnter James, a young man with Down’s syndrome and a future more interesting and creative than an occasional foray to a shopping mall after a hard day doing mind-numbing nonsense. Today we did a really cool shoot with James in a W1 creative agency packed to the rafters with designers, copywriters and people who do interesting things between 9 and 5. You see, James works in this media company five days a week and has a travel buddy to help him get there and back.

While watching James at work in the post room and at other administrative chores I couldn’t help thinking that most of the creatives on the shop floor are around the same age as James and even five years ago the idea that they would have been on the same payroll as a person with a learning disability was as remote as my beloved Leyton Orient reaching the Champions League final (it will happen one day). James is their equal, he reports to a line manager, he has his daily quota of work to fulfill and he uses public transport to get to and from the office. And at the weekend he follows a certain football club in west London.

Getting James onto that shop floor is a logistical exercise of considerable complexity involving the Down’s Syndrome Association, James’ mother, local authority, transport organisations and of course the company who have given James this opportunity. And it will never be reported by the same media outlets baying for the blood of social services who have failed vulnerable people.

John Smithies, Press Officer of the Down’s Syndrome Association, tells me: “For James to have the opportunity to work in such an environment is unusual – but it needn’t be. We’re working to improve the awareness of what people with Down’s syndrome are capable of. We’ve achieved mainstream education for those that want it and we’re just starting to see the positive effects of this. Now let’s see how progressive employers – like James’s – can effect real change for people with Down’s syndrome.”

It’s with great pride that we publish these images taken by Sheena Kelliher, a new photographer on the Care Images roster. And we take great pride in having James as a model.