22 May 2020

'Lockdown' - Week 9 - some words from our CEO

We chat to our CEO, Stuart Rumney, about the new challenges Calderdale SmartMove now faces

When the initial lockdown announcement came and I was in the office closing it down, I was in deep shock and knew we had to exercise our business continuity plans in order to continue with our services. We quickly engaged with staff and partners agreeing a plan of action and decided to take baby steps by agreeing a one week plan so that we could glean learning and make week by week gradual adjustments. Obviously, I was really concerned about the health of our staff as we had four members of staff displaying potential symptoms which led us to ask them individually to socially isolate. A couple of days later it became clear that we had been designated as Key Workers and that we would need to find ways to be able to continue safely with our work.   

The first thing I had to be conscious of was keeping a safe environment for staff, clients and volunteers with the balance of continuing to support the vulnerable individuals and families across Calderdale who need us. To be able to do this, we have undertaken weekly risk assessments based on guidance from both the Government and our Local Authority. Adhering to the social distancing restrictions, it is pleasing that we have managed to continue to house people in situations of crisis. This includes provision of the bonds, and being able to make their house into a home by providing all the basic furniture needed. Due to the main office being closed, it is really great that the staff are able to support their clients by telephone on an every other day basis. Whilst it has hardly been business as usual, I am so proud that the clients have enjoyed the best possible support during these testing times.

Throughout the previous 9 weeks, Julie and her team of Support Workers have gone the extra mile to continue to offer assistance to their clients, often with complex issues. The level of morale, motivation and can-do attitude has been simply remarkable. Not only have they assisted existing clients, they have continued to welcome new clients and also assisted with food and hygiene drop offs to non-clients who needed support, including the elderly and families struggling throughout the lockdown.

One of my biggest concerns was the fact that we are a charitable organisation which means to operate we have to generate significant income from fundraising events throughout the year. Historically, the Calderdale community have supported us with our fundraising events as have many businesses, schools and community groups. I initially looked at our management account projections and quickly realised that we had a potential black hole of around £100,000.00. Mentally, I had to accept that it was unlikely that we could hold any events where public gatherings were to take place potentially until after Christmas 2020. I had the decision whether to just accept it was going to be a bad year, or look to alternative fundraising activities such as increasing the number of grant applications and running virtual fundraising events. I chose the latter, with two quizzes so far and a bingo game already undertaken. Our main annual fundraising event is our Sleepout which is incredibly well supported with last year generating an unbelievable £60,000.00 in just one evening. Our challenge now is to be creative and to think of events that we can engage in without public gatherings and already we have an action plan full of ideas which we will implement mid-Summer.

This is a terrible time for everyone, especially for the loved ones of those affected by the virus. But despite the pandemic, we are committed to ensuring the sustainability of all our services and hopefully the return of a face to face service once it is safe to do so. Also worthy of note, much learning has come from this awful virus and we are positive that we can find better working protocols due to the adaptations we have had to make.

Please everybody follow the advice. Stay safe. Look after each other and I’m hoping we can return to some level of normality fairly quickly. If any reader, once this is over, would like any of the team to come and present about our work at your meetings, whether it be business or community groups, please don’t be afraid to ask.

Best wishes to everyone.

Stuart