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.
“I absolutely loved my job. It’s my vocation, I love caring for people,” Rachel says.
For 21 years, until December 2015, Rachel worked at Park Hall, a residential care home for elderly people and vulnerable adults in Reigate, Surrey.
She’d started there as care assistant, and worked her way up. She’d been the manager for the last eight years.
“There were always activities going on.
I wanted the clients to have a decent quality of life.”
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.
These were all breaches of Surrey County Council policy. Two days later Rachel was suspended from her job.
From the word go, Rachel held her hands up and admitted all the council’s allegations but nonetheless wanted to appeal against their decision.
“I know I shouldn’t have put that picture up there, but should I really have had my career of 21 years taken away for one mistake? I wanted justice because I didn’t believe what they had done to me was fair.”