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Luen’s blog: The role of vision and values when managing in a crisis.

There is no doubt that when coronavirus first struck, our charity went into crisis mode. But as we move now from crisis into restoration and recovery I think it’s a good time to reflect back on how we made progress and managed the crisis by focusing on our vision and our values.

You won’t be surprised to know that as a hospice, one of our values is caring. Of course, we have continued to care for the families that we support, although some of that caring has looked different with the social distancing measures in place. We have delivered food parcels, entertainment packs and sensory packs, all donated from our caring community, staff and volunteers. When delivering packs, we have been able to sense how families are managing and as a result, delivered a number of emergency respite breaks to people who are now struggling with delivering 24/7 care in isolation and with little support. And of course our core services including end of life care and perinatal care have continued.

We have cared for each other, recognising anxiety levels, exhaustion levels and resilience levels change from person to person day to day. We have provided resilience sessions, access to help and a whole range of tools and activities to keep us all mentally healthy. We have been communicating regularly with all of our staff, working and furloughed, our volunteers and our families letting everyone know what’s going on at the hospice, how our appeal is working and messages about keeping safe and keeping well, physically and mentally. We have done this because we are one team who work for each other, and we care.

We pride ourselves on being pioneering, which is our second value. During the pandemic, we opened our new Sudden Unexplained Death in a Child (SUDIC) service, the first of its kind in the country. We have already had a number of referrals and have developed the means by which we can deliver this service virtually and at the hospice for those families who wish to use our memory making facilities. We developed a vulnerability screening tool to help us understand where our families are at, and this has now been shared with over 20 other hospices. We had been trying to develop a paid short breaks service for those families with continuing care budgets in place and have now been able to deliver that, ensuring children who don’t need to be in hospital but are in need of care can use the hospice and have the family time they were being denied. We have built an online offer so that families can engage in peer to peer support and we have designed a wide range of virtual fundraising activities to support our appeal, including securing some A list celebrities for our comedy nights.

We have been genuinely concerned about what the pandemic has meant for families and some of the unforeseen consequences. Working with our third value, genuine, we asked our consultant paediatrician Dr Cat to help us address families’ genuine concerns about visiting hospitals at this time. The Q&A has been shared with families and is available to download here. We have also been genuine with all of our staff. Uncertainty seems to be the new norm, and none of us know the answers to everything. Being open, honest and authentic about that has helped us engage with our staff, working and furloughed, and work together to deal with what’s in front of us.

As a result, we have seen endless displays of our fourth value – positive. We have asked staff to change, adapt, be flexible and be agile to our changing circumstances. Everyone has stepped up to the plate, whether that’s been agreeing to be furloughed as a cost saving measure where there is no work currently, or doing things differently in order to prioritise making progress in the new norm. As a result we have delivered a hugely successful appeal, built new relationships with many donors and health and social care providers resulting in new income, interpreted a vast array of government guidelines to ensure we deliver services safely and created new procedures to allow for many more of our staff to work from home. And we remain a positive source of support for all of the families that need us. Already the charity looks and feels different and we are starting to work through what’s now non-negotiable as we move into recovery. This means agreeing what we have learned and what we are now doing differently that we want to retain and binning forever some of our old practices that just won’t any longer suit us or the circumstances.

It’s taken real courage, our last value, to face up to our situation and deal with it. We have taken risks in doing things differently, in telling people just how bad things were when the financial loses became apparent, and in placing many of our staff with other providers – including on the frontline alongside NHS colleagues. But we have broken through lots of barriers that just didn’t need to be there and we won’t be going back. Our appetite for risk has changed and as a result, lots of new things have opened up for us.

Our vision is to deliver pioneering care through pregnancy, childhood and loss, whenever families need us, whatever their future holds. We are still delivering on our vision, despite a financial crisis, despite massive changes to our workforce, despite the loss of almost all of our volunteers and despite the working restrictions placed on us by this pandemic. We have been able to do this because we have stayed true to our vision and our values.

We don’t have a value about being proud, but I and my senior team and all of our trustees are hugely proud of how we have handled this unprecedented situation. Together we have ensured our hospice, serving the 2,300 families in West Yorkshire who have a life-shortening condition, is here today and will be here tomorrow for everyone who needs us.