My working life is all about people, and it never ceases to amaze me just how many stakeholders we have at Norwood. As the UK’s largest Jewish children, family and learning disability charity, we provide critical services for over 7,000 people at any one time.
To truly respond to the community’s needs we must take into account first and foremost the needs of the people we support and their families. We then have to listen to the views of our staff and volunteers, expert lay-leaders and Trustees, local authorities and NHS commissioners, our donors who make a huge and significant contribution to enabling our work, as well as the community. The simple message to all is that Norwood provides services to the most vulnerable in our community, which could be for a short period of a few months, a number of years or for the whole of their lives, and every stakeholder has an important contribution to make to help us sustain these. Many of my day to day activities are therefore focussed on ensuring we are maintaining and strengthening our engagement with them to the benefit of our business, so I seem to spend an enormous part of my week talking.
As CEO I maintain the helicopter view of Norwood’s complex web of services, supported by an exceptional team of Directors, and we collectively encourage our staff to think laterally about finding innovative solutions to the problem of our times; maintaining the breadth and quality of our services in a world of shrinking statutory finances. Recently, 40 of our most senior managers across Norwood met to take stock of our progress on 12 important strategic objectives which will reshape our organisation to be leaner, more efficient and responsive, using our collective experience to overcome challenges. The commitment of our staff and volunteers never fails to remind me of how fortunate we are to attract and retain such talented people, and this rich seam of experience is also evident in the extraordinary Trustee and lay support the professional team calls on. During these times of austerity Norwood has never been more reliant on the income we raise from voluntary donations and grants, and part of every week includes communicating, meeting with or taking on service visits from some of our generous supporters and donors. I take great pride in showcasing our services, and these visits remind me why I do the job I do!
Being accessible is important to me, so meeting with the families of people we’re supporting is vital. Sometimes there is a particular issue to be discussed about an individual service user, and sometimes I’ll be meeting with a large group. These meetings are always informative and I learn a great deal about how we should be tailoring our services from the people at the heart of them. At the beginning of July we held a graduation ceremony for six trainees from Norwood’s catering training scheme for people with learning disabilities. We were privileged to be joined by The Mayor of Barnet who, apart from presenting the certificates, also had a tour of The Kennedy Leigh Family Centre in Hendon where he gained a greater understanding of our work. Watching the graduates proudly stepping up to receive their certificates in front of their families was inspiring – and as I said on the day, being part of occasions like these is one of the best parts of my job. We at Norwood believe that everyone, regardless of disability, should have the chance to lead full, independent lives and to achieve their potential. Seeing these young adults ready to embark on their journeys into paid employment proves that our dreams can be realised.
At present, every week contains a meeting or discussion on Ravenswood. The Ravenswood Development Project is our biggest and most ambitious project today which aims to invest in the infrastructure and accommodation in Crowthorne, ensuring that the 128 adults who call it home will have a better life and more inclusive place to live. This redevelopment will also ensure a sustainable future for Ravenswood. Getting to this point where we shall shortly be confirming our development partner has taken two years, and a great deal of work and honest and open talking! Initially, families found the thought of any change difficult but after extensive consultation, they and Norwood are aligned in complete collaboration and support.
The rest of my working week is likely to involve meetings, conference calls, correspondence, and discussions on anything from our financial position to the outcome of a service review, from workforce issues to a fundraising event, from a safeguarding issue to dealing with a complaint, Trustee meetings, communal meetings, governance issues, regulators compliance, facility issues, performance management, and so the list goes on. My job is both challenging and rewarding, and I thoroughly enjoy the variety. I can never, however, turn off as we run 24/7 services 365 days of the year.