22 Jun Covid 19: Reflections and moving on
The Covid 19 pandemic changed all our lives over the last few months in ways that none of us envisaged. Few will have ever experienced such a rapid and comprehensive change to the way they lived and had taken for granted. The rapidity and depth of change experienced caught out not only individuals and organisations but the whole country which was unprepared for the impact.
Positive Steps as an organisation is blessed with staff that can rise to the challenge and are committed to meet the needs of those at most risk. Staff responded in a myriad of ways from ensuring those early released from prison had advice and support, those shielding received food and medicines, delivering “positivity packs” to boost morale and delivering outreach to those at risk from drug overdose. Everyone played a part and everyone deserved the round of applause each Thursday as frontline keyworkers.
In any crisis you learn a lot about an organisations vulnerabilities especially around decision-making and communications – what works and what does not – and Positive Steps adapted very quickly to new ways of working. Plans may be good on paper but it is the people who make things happen. The management and staff of Positive Steps responded magnificently to the challenges imposed by the restrictions to maintain our services. As a frontline organisation they had to find different ways of meeting our service user’s needs and produce as normal a service as possible within PPE/Social distancing restrictions. Even those staff shielding managed to work remotely to assist those in the frontline. I was extremely proud of the commitment, team work and the positive can-do attitude displayed throughout the organisation. It is that attitude of going the biblical “extra mile” (Matthew 5:41) that makes Positive Steps the organisation that it is.
Unlike many in the Third Sector who experienced dramatic drops in income just when demand for some of their services were exploding, Positive Steps prudent financial management meant we were financially robust enough to meet the challenge. However Covid-19 was a game-changer for all organisations regardless of sector as it reconfigured the rules of risk management. Previously risk management focused on process and compliance but the coronavirus outbreak was a wake-up call as business disruption went from an unlikely abstract concept into a reality. At Positive Steps our management team had a good risk management strategy in place which was based on innovative thinking and reality, which enabled the charity to respond in adaptable, resilient and effective ways.
During the crisis our primary concern quite rightly was focused on the short-term around the health and wellbeing of staff and service users. As we move into the recovery stage we must remember that CV19 has not gone away and Positive Steps will adhere to Scottish Government guidelines. In addition we also will need to switch focus to the longer-term and not just emergency response. Positive Steps and Positive Steps Initiatives, our subsidiary trading arm have responded and coped well with the emergency but we are now planning for what are called the second-order impacts of CV19 in the sector such as working restrictions, revenues impacts and opportunity for growth.
As we begin to enter the next phase of the so-called “new normal” the focus needs to be on what we can achieve and not what we cannot. We need to think beyond the crisis and focus on what we want our services to achieve post-Covid. While many staff have already fully returned to working within the guidelines we now have plans in place to safely resume all our services to a normal service within the changing guidelines. A risk assessment has been completed to ensure that staff can safely return to Swan House but everyone will need to do their part in adhering to social distancing guidelines as we endeavor to restore a normal service.
Positive Steps like many organisations found it necessary to redesign and adapt existing services to meet changing and different needs. The collective response across Positive Steps has been immense with multi-departmental teams coming together to work collaboratively. Coronavirus reshaped needs and our services responded immediately in new ways to meet the crisis. For many organisations including Positive Steps this had meant remote working resulting in many of the everyday face to face interactions being replaced virtually.
This new way of working may inform our future services and how we might do things differently going forward. However we are equally aware of how important face to face contact is for many of our service users and restoring a complete service as soon as possible within social distancing guidelines remains our primary aim. I am confident staff will be flexible to overcome any challenges this new way of working might present. As an organisation we are very aware of the mental and physical health issues that the lockdown can produce and we have been actively seeking funding to help overcome this. So far we have successfully obtained some funding to implement our plans to identify and provide enhanced support to those individuals who have been adversely affected both physically and mentally during this period.
We are in the midst of a piece of social history but when needs are so immediate it is difficult to identify and capture the learning points from your response. However one major learning point has been how resilient and inventive we are as a team. The pandemic challenged our traditional working norms but importantly we met the challenge and can now look forward to reshaping what we do in the future.
Thank you all for your continued commitment and support.