Rachel Burns @ Park Hall

by Dave Tuting in Reigate, England, United Kingdom

Rachel Burns @ Park Hall
Not quite
Unfortunately this project was not successful.

To settle bills incurred whilst a carer has waited for a council employment tribunal to decide whether she has been unfairly dismissed

by Dave Tuting in Reigate, England, United Kingdom

When Rachel Burns posted a photo of a singalong at work on her Facebook page, she had no idea that her actions would end her career.

For 21 years, until December 2015, Rachel worked at Park Hall, a residential care home for elderly people and vulnerable adults in Reigate, Surrey.

One of the activities that Rachel organised for the residents at Park Hall was a regular music night, every Friday.

"We'd put flowers on the tables," Rachel says. "The residents would all get dressed up and we'd have a different supper every week."

As a keen amateur singer, Rachel would perform at the music nights, everything from Roberta Flack and Nina Simone to Boney M.

"The staff would get up dancing with the residents. You'd see smiles on their faces - it really was such a lovely thing to see."

One Friday Rachel returned home after music night and decided to share some of the special moments from the evening online.

"I was quite elated at how the night had gone," Rachel says. "I posted the picture thinking that it would just be seen by a few people, mainly staff, on Facebook."

But two months later Rachel got a phone call summoning her to head office.

"As soon as I got there, when I saw their faces, I knew I was in big trouble."

Rachel had done four things wrong. She'd posted the photo on Facebook, she'd identified a Park Hall resident in the photo - a man with Down's syndrome who, eager to be photographed, had jumped into the shot beside her - she had also posted a video of the music night, and she was Facebook friends with a relative of one of the residents. 

Claire Pooley's brother is the Park Hall resident in the photo that Rachel posted on Facebook. 

Claire says her brother loves to be the centre of attention and loves to share photographs of himself with the rest of his family. The Friday music nights were the highlight of his week.

"He loves singing and dancing," Claire says, "Rachel and the guys allowed him to just blossom on a Friday evening. 

"The moment we walked in the door we knew Park Hall was a special place," Claire's husband Graham continues. "The atmosphere, the culture and the behaviour - people were happy there and had a lot of stimulation." 

The couple say that the Park Hall staff always encouraged Claire's brother to get up and sing at the music nights. 

"He would practise and get ready for it - although he sang the same three songs every week," Graham says. "We loved watching him - it brought him alive, it was wonderful."

Neither Claire nor Graham feel that Rachel should have been fired for posting the photo of Claire's brother.

"None of us had a problem with it - gross misconduct or not," Claire says.

"After 21 years is it appropriate to sack the manageress who's created a culture and environment at this special home in the way that they have?" asks Graham. "The answer is no, it's not." 

To make matters worse, Rachel's husband Gary is very unwell.

"He's had the brain tumour for four years," Rachel says. "He was very healthy, but he walks with a stick now."

Not only is Gary unable to work, but without a reference Rachel can't find a new job. She and Gary are racking up huge debts living off their credit cards, but she hopes her money worries will be sorted out once the case is resolved, with any luck out of court.

I think that we should try to help this lady who has worked tirelessly in a care home for so long, who gives the residents a quality of life unheard of in most homes, a break.  Can we help to restore her faith in mankind and give her back the life she has worked so hard and selflessly for?  I think so.

Let's make 'Rachel Burns @ Park Hall' happen