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Luen’s blog: Speaking up, speaking out

Following Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the team gymnastics competition at the Olympics, much has been said about the courage required for people to speak up and speak out. This applies when things are not right, when we don’t feel right, when we are worried about others or worried about ourselves. Simone’s voice, along with that of tennis player Naomi Osaka earlier in the year, will have done much to inspire people to speak up when they need to, or feel they should. But for more people to take this step, we need to create safe spaces in which people can do so.

Here at the hospice, we have done a lot of work to ensure families who use our services can share any concerns with us. We want to ensure our services are and feel safe for people to use, particularly following the pandemic when so many of our families have been isolated for so long and have concerns about the safety of their child. We’re doing everything we can to create an open and welcoming culture, one where families are listened to, directly and via a number of means which allow people to share information anonymously. We keep up-to-date records of concerns, complaints and of course compliments and keep an action log to ensure we learn from these which we share with senior leadership, trustees and the Care Quality Commission. We have a robust incident reporting culture, investigating every incident and learning from them, spotting any potential trends and taking early action to mitigate issues. All around our hospice are notices letting staff, volunteers and families know how to raise a concern and how to get support if they feel they need help to speak up.

We’ve also done much at the hospice to support the mental wellbeing of our people. The work we do here requires a great deal of personal resilience in order for people to perform at their best for the families who need us. But like everyone, our people have sometimes found the last 18 months or so really challenging, and this, on top of the work they do, has left some of them feeling emotionally drained, tired and run down. We’ve invested heavily in providing wellbeing support to everyone at Forget Me Not, including staff and volunteers in our shops who’ve sadly experienced a great deal of poor behaviour from some customers. Our challenge as a responsible employer has been to and let our people know that it’s ok to not be ok and create safe spaces for them to come forward and ask for help without fear of recrimination. And to provide them with the support they need, whatever their situation might be.

We fully recognise that our people need to feel safe and supported in order to perform at their best so that the families we care for feel safe and supported too. Our trustees take their responsibilities in this area incredibly seriously, all have undertaken specific training and we have had trustee led sessions around this subject to ensure trustees have full oversight and know and understand their responsibilities to staff, volunteers and families in this respect.

It’s a good thing that more and more people are speaking up and speaking out. Now organisations need to ensure they have mechanisms in place to help people to do that, so that we can all make improvements in the ways we work. It is this that will help us to become more inclusive and help us to deliver more to more people.