Juno is a children’s residential care provider, started and powered by Capacity. The Capacity team has recently had a chance to visit the first Juno home, ahead of its opening early next year.
We sat down to chat with our Chief Executive, Chris Catterall, about the journey Juno has been on from the very start, and his hopes for Juno’s future.
How did Juno start?
Juno was a project that was in my head even before Capacity. I used to work with Sophie Clarke, the Juno Project Lead, who was working with looked-after children for quite a while, so I formed a bit of an understanding on what’s going on from a young person’s perspective. So, when this project turned up on our doors and the council told us they have a challenge in children’s residential care, we felt like we already had a piece of that puzzle, some of the care-experienced young people’s perspective. When we investigated it from the council perspective, they were talking about the makeup of the sector in terms of providers, the increasing costs, the lack of homes in the region and outcomes for children; working on this project was a no-brainer for me. I felt like we can really find a solution.
We were so convinced by this, we did the initial consultations without anyone commissioning us – we spoke to lots of young people about their experiences in residential care, what was good and not so good; and equally we wanted to understand what it looks like from the local authority perspective and operational perspectives – what challenges they were facing each side, and what could be done about it.
All this consultation work led to a presentation to commissioners and social care directors across the Liverpool city region. We got a fairly positive response across the room, and for us, emotionally, that was the point where we said, “We’re doing this.” There was, of course, still so much to do, but that was the starting point when I knew that we were going to commit to it.
What was the reception to the ideas you proposed?
There was a real mix – we had people who really wanted to do their best to make this work, to secure that funding, people who got excited to hear us talk about how things could be different. We had challenges, too – some people saw it pragmatically – they questioned our ability to raise the money, ability to build a sustainable model. It was tricky to navigate the perceptions, but ultimately, we wanted to find people who had that positive view and could make this happen. And convince those who (and rightly so) were raising critical questions and challenging us.
The way we approached our initial consultation, seeing all perspectives – the young people, the commissioners, the placing of young people, the financial models. Focussing on these few key areas meant that when someone did challenge our point of view, we were able to give detailed responses on how to deal with whatever the challenges were.
What was it like for you and team in that period, emotionally?
To be honest, seeing so much profiteering in the sector, the private capital companies that offer such poor outcomes for young people and their staff; the amount of profit they’re making made me very angry. And at the time, I would have thought it would have been much easier to secure funding for a model that will reduce profiteering, provide better outcomes for young people – a model that has been proven based on what’s going on across the country… But it was really, really difficult.
Despite it being hard, deep in my heart I always knew we’d be able to do it. The nights before the investment committees were fairly sleepless, but we knew we’d get the money, because what we’re trying to do is so compelling and strong.
How did the challenges Juno face change over time?
I think funding was very challenging at the beginning, but the biggest challenge in my mind was always getting the right people. We were trying to get people who can see your vision and trying to decide quickly what their capabilities and values are… on top of the fact that we’re doing something we haven’t done before and something that doesn’t exist yet.
Joining a start-up is a bit of a leap of faith from the people coming on board, but I think it’s also so compelling – you’re joining an organisation where you can really make a difference, and one that will make a difference in the region.
And the people joining Juno now will set the tone for the future, so it’s so important to get this right moving forward too.
What changed the most from the beginning of Juno to now?
There’s a huge amount of team pride – lots of amazing people working on it collectively.
It’s brilliant to see how those different strengths got us where we are – the properties, the investment, the people and getting others on board with our vision – it’s fantastic! We’ve come so far, and it’s so important to pause and remind ourselves that.
It’s a rollercoaster still, there’s lots of anxiety – we’re about to open the first home, naturally there’s anxiety that comes with it. I’m a dad, I’m responsible for 2 young people, and we’re about to become responsible for some young people through Juno, that’s a big undertaking.
So, there’s pride and there’s anxiety, I want to make sure we do a good job, we make a difference to the young people in our care, and the residential care sector overall.
What is your vision for Juno’s future?
First and foremost, we need to make a difference for young people. We need to create safety and support for them around emotional health, and educational support.
When have proof of that, we can really demonstrate to the sector that there is a better, more ethical model of finance.
My ambition is that once we have this proof, we can go to other areas and say look, this is a bit of a blueprint, a great way to provide better outcomes, take back some of that control from a sector that is currently very market-driven, and fundamentally provide better outcomes for young people.