A Week of Optimism
A Week of Optimism
This has been our first week since the Scottish Government started the gradual relaxation of lockdown restrictions.
The opportunity to get out in the sunshine a little bit more and to see some friends and family outdoors for the first time in many weeks – albeit strictly following the limitations and social distancing rules that necessarily remain in place – feels like it has given a lot of people’s wellbeing a bit of a boost.
This shift from the immediate emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic also allows us to look up and out a bit more to consider what the world might look like as we move along the Route Map and out of the crisis.
I feel like this spirit of hope has been reflected in a lot of the things I have been doing this week, and it has really made for a week of optimism.
Earlier in the week, I had the chance to catch up with Heather Stenhouse from Strathclyde Business School to talk about our innovative Breaking Barriers programme and how it will continue to support students who have a learning disability through the current challenges.
It was a great chance to reflect on some of the young lives that have been transformed by this incredibly successful partnership that ENABLE Scotland has with the University of Strathclyde and ScottishPower, and this video of one of our graduates, Michael Higgins, addressing an audience of 600 people at the University’s Barony Hall (before the Covid-19 restrictions, of course) sums up perfectly what the programme is all about. It gives me great optimism to think how many more young people will get opportunities for higher education and employment through Breaking Barriers that they might not otherwise have been able to access in the years to come.
Bringing people together
This week, I joined a Board meeting of Inclusion Europe with colleagues from across the continent. This was another reminder of some of the things – like traveling around Europe – that we used to take for granted, but it also highlighted once again how technology can help us connect and engage with people both near and far very easily from our own homes. There is no doubt that the mass digital migration that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced upon us will not be fully reversed when the crisis is over.
Quite apart from the business of the meeting, the best piece of news was hearing that my friend Jyrki Pinomaa, the Chair of Inclusion Europe, has been able to see his son, Robin, face to face this week after being separated for 12 weeks of lockdown in Finland. Although they had been able to keep in touch via Zoom, there are some things that technology can never fully replace!
Leading the way
As you know, ENABLE Scotland is all about supporting people to live the life they choose, and I have been absolutely passionate about implementing self-directed support through our Personal Assistant (PA) model since I was first associated with the charity.
Sometimes, other providers do not meet the standards people rightly expect of them, and there are occasions when ENABLE Scotland steps in to try and turnaround a service that has been failing people. This is exactly what happened two years ago when we worked with a local Health & Social Care Partnership to turnaround the failing service provision of a private equity-backed provider. Two years on, I have this week commissioned an independent evaluation of our performance in that service from Radical Visions, who are recognised as leading experts and advocates of independent living.
I think it’s important to capture the lessons learned through this transformation journey and to share these lessons as we continue to navigate through a post-Covid world. It gives me great optimism that we can do even more to support people across Scotland.
Pivotal to the service we deliver, of course, are the PAs who provide that support and the colleagues who equip and support them to do so. It is a real pleasure to continue to hear our PAs’ tales from the frontline on the regular Zoom calls I have with teams around the country. It sometimes takes a bit of prompting to get colleagues to share their remarkable stories of going above and beyond to fight for the rights of the people we support and to help them live their lives to the full, which I think is a reflection of how that exceptional level of support is what our teams consider to be standard.
On that subject, I took further heart from a very encouraging update from our Director of Services, Howard Elliott, on another service we are developing to support people with complex needs to move out of an acute hospital setting and into their own homes. This had been disrupted a little by the Covid-19 restrictions, but this awful pandemic has made it clearer than ever that we must ensure that people receive the care and support they need to live the life they choose in their own home, and are not unnecessarily placed in institutional settings. This is so fundamental to what we stand for as a charity, and I am very proud of the progress Howard and his team are making.
Inspiring young people
Finally, I had the honour of being a judge in the Young Enterprise Scotland Awards, the winners of which were announced (digitally, needless to say) at the Festival of Youth Enterprise on Tuesday. It is a great privilege to judge awards like this, but it is also incredibly difficult because you have to choose between several exceptional young people who have been on remarkable journeys from often being quite shy and unengaged, to being confident, successful young entrepreneurs who support, lead and inspire their peers.
As the country faces such a challenging environment as we seek to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and its long term impacts, I am nevertheless filled with optimism that so many of our young people have the talent, passion and values to help build a fairer, more inclusive country.
Theresa Shearer, Group CEO