A family of three park their car outside the office of health care company A1 Care in Bournemouth. Out of the car steps a Norwegian man, Erlend Wiggen, and his wife Kine Wiggen, carrying a small baby in her arms. They are clearly on the move, seeing as the car is filled with luggage. Out of the office comes the Operations Manager for A1 Care, Lorraine Maher, to welcome them. She has 25 years of experience in the health care sector and even won the “Great British Care Awards” for Registered Care Managers. At present, she is both eager and ready to share her knowledge with the newcomers.
So, what is the story behind this scene? This small family has made the move from their home in Norway to the UK despite both Brexit and Covid. They sold their house, their car and left their safe job and a great life on the Norwegian coast. Together husband and wife have sixteen years of experience from the Royal Norwegian Air Force, both being educated at the Royal Norwegian Air Force Academy with a bachelor’s degree in leadership and having MBA respectively in Strategy and in HR, as well as education in Psychology. They have made this plunge to begin a new adventure in beautiful South England – filled with polite people, warmer weather, and nice beaches.
The Wiggen family have in fact set down towards a more uncertain future, leaving all their family and friends at home in order to do care work in the UK – a sector that desperately needs attention, appreciation, and an additional workforce. BBC published on the 13th of October an article written by Alison Holt about the Care Staff shortage and how this increases the pressure on the NHS – seeing as there is not enough care staff to help care to need people at home, which also leads people to stay in hospitals longer and in consequence delaying discharges and blocking beds. One manager from Holt’s article pointed out how “roughly 100 beds blocked, and domiciliary care providers are handing dozens of [patient care] packages back to the council as they don’t have staff to deliver them”. Care companies are facing acute challenges in the recruiting and retaining of staff, according to a report which suggests there are now more unfilled care jobs than there was before the pandemic. Yet this is the line of work that the Wiggen family are gladly choosing to be a part of.
Why are they taking this leap of faith, making this change in their careers and future? The main reason is the way they look at life, inspired by Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in this world”. Erlend comes from a family of long health care traditions, being the son of Thomas Martin Wiggen, the co-founder of Focus Care, one of the premier health care companies in Norway. Furthermore, both Kine and Erlend value caring, kindness, and empathy. The care industry is a big change from day to day working in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, but the key mission is the same – protecting and helping people. When these desires met the fantastic vision and culture of A1 Care, with the backdrop being a beautiful part of a country with an amazing culture, it was an instant match.
When we ask them why they changed their line of work, Erlend says: “Every day in the Air Force you train for something that you hope will never happen – which is war – while in the care industry you make an actual difference in people’s lives. This is a very important and meaningful job every day. It is also clear that the industry is under a lot of pressure. From my time in the Royal Norwegian Air Force, I am used to working under challenging circumstances making difficult, exhausting, and hard situations turn into something productive.” Kine adds that it is a dream come true to live in the UK since she has always loved the British people’s caring and polite ways. Calling strangers loving nicknames such as darling is a beautiful way of embracing each other. Kine is also a big fan of the monarchy, and the Netflix series the Queen. “Did you know that Norway and Great Britain have strong family ties seeing that the Norwegian king from 1905, king Haakon, was married to the British princess Maud, daughter of the British king Edward the VII, and the current Norwegian King, his majesty King Harald, is the second cousin of the British Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth? There is a very strong bond between these royal families as well as the countries history, seeing as the UK protected the Norwegian Royal family during the second world war and Norwegian military efforts during the war were led from the UK.” Furthermore, she says it is an adventure to be able to build up and contribute to developing the lovely company of A1 Care, making sure that all clients get the best person-centered care possible. “It is also crucial that we contribute to establishing a sustainable workforce in the UK after Brexit,” she says, “properly valued and respected for the vitally important work health care workers are doing.”
It will be exciting to see what the Wiggen family together with the registered Manager, Lorraine Maher, and the rest of the A1 Care Company, can build and develop in the Care industry in South England. The A1 Care family, Live-In and Domiciliary care company, takes great pride in providing care to people at their homes, making sure they can enhance their life in the comfort of their own homes.
Erlend, Kine, and their little girl thrive in Dorset, enjoying what the county has to offer. Norway is left behind, and this Christmas the family of three look forward to swapping pork and aquavit with turkey and chardonnay, and even delaying the celebration with a day following UK traditions. At A1 Care we know that “There is no place like home”, and Erlend and Kine are honored to now have their home in the UK.