Making A Difference

Hugh Mackintosh, Director, Barnardo’s Scotland, gives Care Appointments a unique insight into the organisation’s work in staff development, user participation and making a difference…

We began by asking Hugh what Barnardo’s’ current recruitment priorities are in Scotland?
“There has been a huge expansion in our work in recent years – in 1991 there were 13 services, largely in the central belt of Scotland, we’ve now got 63 services across Scotland, and in so doing we’ve gone from a £4 million to a £21 million enterprise.

“The work is very diverse: we work in social work, health, education, housing and in partnership with the police, so we’re looking for a broad range of professional skills, backgrounds and experiences that people can bring to the work. There is an ongoing requirement for posts in all of these areas.”

So what type of vacancies does Barnardo’s Scotland find it hardest to fill?
“Of late, our toughest have been Qualified Social Worker posts. We would, in the past, have invariably had six applicants for those kind of posts, but now we maybe only get one and sometimes we have to re-advertise these positions. That’s mainly because of the competition out there – there has been a shortage of social workers, particularly in the child care field, and local authorities have been offering various packages – we’ve got to compete against that.

“What we also find in Scotland is that there are geographical areas where it is more difficult to recruit staff: if we’re advertising for a Project Leader or Service Manager in the central belt of Scotland that’s going to be a bit easier to achieve than if the post was in the north east, for example, where there is a smaller labour pool and you have the issue of travelling and relocation.”

What then, do Barnardo’s do in terms of staff retention?
“We’re in quite a privileged position where we don’t have the standard responsibility and what we are able to do is to work at depth with children, young people and families. The ability of the organisation to engage its service users is impressive – there’s no doubt that staff do feel that they are actually able to make a difference to the lives of the people they’re working with and they can see that. If you are providing a service and you get good feedback from the service user, that makes them feel good but it also makes you feel good too – it’s reciprocal.

“However, while we don’t have the standard responsibility, we do have to demonstrate that we are achieving impressive outcomes and in so doing we give serious consideration to the work methods that might achieve these outcomes. Because of this kind of evidence based approach staff are able to see the influence of their work not only on a local project level but on a wider Barnardo’s level and beyond.

“Additionally, one of the most common feedbacks that I get from staff when I visit services is our learning and development opportunities, which are quite considerable.”

Service User inclusion is a concept that is gaining broader awareness all the time and something that more and more service providers are embracing. What is the Barnardo’s view on this concept?
“Our effective drive and commitment to user participation gives a real voice to young people and their families. Young people are involved in interview panels for new staff and, importantly, are given training before they participate in this. I retire next year and I am sure that young people will be involved in the selection process for my successor!

“We also have two Young People Action Groups. They meet with me on a regular basis and discuss their views on Barnardo’s and what we might do differently to help them. They also report to my Scottish committee or my Scottish committee will go to meet them.

“A lot of the young people and parents that we work with feel devalued and have never had very much in the way of power in their lives – we endeavour to share some of that power with them. A good example of this in practice was a conference we ran called Cathy Never Did Come Home which was attended by a number of young mums who were prostitutes on the streets of Glasgow.

Some time later I met one of the mums who had spoken at the conference and she told me that because we had given her the platform she had vowed never to go back on the streets again. She went onto further education and kept her children.

“In many of the evaluations of our services, whether they are being carried out by us or by an external body, service users have their say.

“We’re also doing a lot at the moment round the issue of arts and involving young people in poetry and music, which is an interesting way of involving young people. The Nae Danger material was produced by young people themselves, with support of course, but as an example of effective involvement of young people and them having a say it is pretty good.” {mospagebreak}

In terms of workforce development are their any particular schemes or programmes that Barnardo’s have in place for their Scottish workforce?

“We’re working in line with the National Strategy for the Development of the Social Service Workforce and this includes identifying and developing our own systems to support CPD for all staff, linked to the requirements of post- registration training and learning.”

Barnardo’s Scotland have been conducting workshops promoting employee development programmes, helping staff to share and link into new portfolios on induction, appraisal and supervision and have systems in place that support the sharing of learning and development across the organisation. Mackintosh says that these are having a positive impact.

“We believe these initiatives are helping us to achieve a confident and competent workforce by supporting workers to be accountable for the quality of the work and providing training and development opportunities.

“We’re also aiming to achieve a workforce capable of delivering continually improving services in an ever-changing environment and a recent initiative to support this was a series of Delivering Outcomes workshops by our learning and development team. These workshops were designed to support managers in setting measurable outcomes.”

Clearly Barnardo’s is one of the nation’s highest profile charity organisations and has a long standing reputation for excellence, which is evidenced by the many awards the organisation has won. High profile campaigns such as Nae Danger – a dvd and training pack about young people being sexually exploited which was launched by Deputy Minister for Education and Young People Robert Brown – have proved successful but Mackintosh is keen to point out that at Barnardo’s Scotland they are not resting on their laurels.

“We’ve recently published Outcome Reports where we’ve had to ask ourselves ‘are we actually making a difference to the young people an families that we’re working with?’ We looked in depth at six of our services and analysed the methods we used, the outcomes achieved and the cost of this.

“We were pleased with the results but we, in common with everyone else, are very much at the beginning of this process of proving outcomes and it’s about whether we can sustain it in the longer term.

“In our primary school here in Edinburgh we are getting 80% of the children back into mainstream school within two years, which I think is quite unique, however, when you look at the situation two years down the line, when we were no longer involved, that 80% is reduced to just 60%. The question is then, if we’re getting these children back into mainstream school, should we be removing them in the first place? Why not set up a service that tries to support the children and the teachers, the schools and the families, to keep those children in mainstream school? We have done this and it is proving to be very successful.”

Looking forward what are the main items on the agenda for Barnardo’s over the next twelve months?
“The first thing is that we have a new Chief Executive, Martin Narey, who is the first external appointment to that post in about 40 years, and I’m sure he will be having a big say in the future of the organisation. With regards to Scotland, our plan is to continue the growth from 63 services to 75 services by 2011/2012.

“We believe there is enormous strength in the diversity of our provision, our work, and we need to be proud of that diversity and to share our knowledge and experience of that diversity, not only internally but externally too. There is no doubt that the 21st Century Social Work Review is going to have an impact on all of us – it is strong on earlier intervention and prevention and the question is how, as a caring profession, do we get to that stage from where we are just now. These early intervention, preventative services are not necessarily going to be cheaper options – if they are going to be effective we’re going to have to think of them as being quite ‘thick’ services, and as such could be quite expensive.

“As an example, not removing children from mainstream school is not a particularly cheap service – we’re working with the child, we’re working with the class teacher, we’re working with the school, we’re working with the family, we’re working with the child during holiday times – but it is still cheaper than residential special school. And, if we’re able to keep that child in his or her own school and own family then that must be a better outcome.

“Another priority for us will be evidencing even further that the work we’re doing is actually making a difference – whether we are able to do this with knowledge management information is still a challenge that we’ve got to crack. I’m also very clear that there is an increasing number of children growing up who have, quite frankly, very little going for them, who’ve had very little nurturing, very little care, very little effective love. As a consequence of this we are seeing children as young as five who are very disturbed, very very damaged.

“So, a challenge, that Barnardo’s needs to play its part in, is how do we value our children? What is Scotland’s desire for our children? I heard someone speaking recently at the ADSW conference who was talking about leadership and Martin Luther King. He made the point that Martin Luther King didn’t say “I’ve got targets” or “I’ve got performance indicators”, he said “I have a dream”. What I would ask is who is having the dream about how we value our children and our young people?

“There has been a lot of impressive work done with pre-5s through Sure Start, but when they get to school things become a little different. We have a kind of blame culture where children and young people are seen as the problem and we are in danger of alienating and marginalising them and failing to recognise that they are children, many of whom are experiencing pretty horrendous lifestyles.