A statement from Group CEO Theresa Shearer

March 19, 2020 CEO blog

The past week has presented a set of circumstances that many of us have never experienced before in our professional or personal lives.  The COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges for charities that are completely unprecedented.  As ever, the resilience of colleagues across ENABLE Scotland and the Piper Group and their complete dedication over the course of the last seven days has been incredible.

We know this is a worrying time for people who have a learning disability, their families and carers.  Every single person at ENABLE Scotland is committed to being here for everyone who needs us.

Our business continuity plan has worked very well, and we are in control, as far we can be. We have invested significantly in technology and digital infrastructure over the last 18 months with the support of funders such as Robertson Trust, the Scottish Government, and of course our Board, and this has really helped us respond to the current situation.

Working Differently

Staff are working remotely wherever possible to run core operations, whilst our frontline have continued to deliver the care and support that people need.

While we must necessarily make a few changes to how we do things for the foreseeable future, I want to assure everyone that ENABLE Scotland is here for you to offer whatever support we possibly can as we work through this global public health challenge together.

ENABLE Scotland supports more than 3,000 people through our social care services, employability support and charitable projects, and we are one of the country’s largest third sector employers.

The health, safety and wellbeing of our colleagues and all the people we support is our absolute priority.  As CEO, my priority is the welfare of our staff, ensuring that they are safe, well, and not worried about being paid for having to take time off to self isolate or to manage underlying health conditions, or to have access to guidance and protective equipment that they need to continue to work safely.

Keeping everyone safe

We are closely following the advice of the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland, and have taken a number of measures to ensure we can continue to deliver the support people need while keeping everyone safe.

This includes:

  • Supporting our inspirational frontline colleagues who continue to deliver the personalised care and support people need. We are closely following all official guidance to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing, and have been grateful to the support of NHS Scotland in setting up a national system for the distribution of personal protective equipment, including sanitiser and soap, to keep us going.

 

  • All other staff who can work from home are now doing so, and all meetings are being held remotely. We have ensured the technology and systems are in place to allow “business as usual” so far as possible. I am really pleased that our response over the weekend demonstrated that we have the resilience to continue to delivery our core functions remotely. Teams are being encouraged to use technology to meet face to face wherever possible – I think many of us have been amazed at how digitally savvy we have become!

 

  • To keep our members safe, we have suspended all our local ACE and ACE Youth groups and other membership meetings until public health advice regarding social distancing is relaxed. Our team will be keeping in touch with all our members and are looking at new options for virtual meetings.

 

  • We have suspended group activities with people we are supporting into training and employment, but continue to provide one to one support wherever possible, using telephone and other technologies, and applying social distancing to deliver this safely in person wherever we can.

 

  • We are continuing with other ways to fundraise digitally, but have postponed fundraising events and activity, including the annual ENABLE Scotland Fundraising Ball, until later in the year.

 

  • We are offering advice and support to all our affiliated local ENABLE Branches to help them make the right decision about their activities and support.

 

Our frontline colleagues will continue to deliver the personalised care and support people need, and we are closely following all official guidance to protect everyone’s health and wellbeing.  I have to pay tribute to our incredible Piper Group colleagues who have worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone has access to the systems and equipment they need to run the organisation, wherever they are based.

Information and support

We have produced a broad suite of information, including in easy read formats, which can be found on our dedicated webpage here: https://www.enable.org.uk/coronavirus-information/

We will provide regular updates via our social media channels, and anyone looking for specific advice or guidance can call ENABLE Direct on 0300 0200 101, or contact the ENABLE team member you usually deal with.

There is no denying that this will be an exceptionally challenging period, and we welcome the Scottish Government’s announcement of support for the voluntary sector.

In amongst the difficulties we have had some good news stories – a person supported to get their first job in ten years through our All in Edinburgh consortium; our staff supporting people to order flowers for their mum for Mothers Day this weekend; our efforts to get people out of hospitals and into their own homes takes on a different level of urgency in the current circumstances; and our ACE members are engaging with us about ways to use different platforms we haven’t used before – like Whatsapp and TikTok – to keep in touch.

Our emergency planning toolkit is available for any family carers who need it, and we are also directing families to our 7 Steps to Equal Healthcare Guide, produced in partnership with Macmillan, which gives advice for healthcare professionals who may now treat any individual who has a learning disability if they do fall ill.

In this together

ENABLE Scotland has been proud to support people who have a learning disability, their families and carers for 66 years.

While the current challenge is unlike anything we have ever seen before, we are all working harder than ever to ensure we continue to deliver the support people need throughout this period and beyond.

In these challenging times, it is often the little things that make all the difference.  I have been in regular contact with one of our members by phone and social media over the course of the last few nights.  He has been well supported by another organisation and the NHS – but what he really wanted was some company.

That is something I would encourage everyone to remember over the course of the coming weeks and months – the digital opportunities and technology exist now to keep in touch.  Let’s remember to use it – not just for work, but to check in on the people who need it most.

Take care

Theresa Shearer

Group CEO – ENABLE Scotland and The Piper Group

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