May 15, 2013 1 Comment
Yesterday, I attended my first meeting in my new role as Vice-Chair of my local Healthwatch network here in Leeds. I was also there in my role as a Mum, due to the fact that I didn’t have any childcare! Thanks to everyone who was so understanding about my having a toddler in tow.
What was the HealthwatchLeeds meeting all about?
This meeting was arranged to give the existing volunteers who have given so much time and dedication to our local LINk the opportunity to hear first about our plans for Healthwatch, what we hope to build on from the local LINk, and what we want to do differently.
How to involve LINk members in delivery of Healthwatch Leeds?
Although I was a member of LINk, I didn’t receive any notice of this meeting through that network, so I’m making an assumption that the people who did were all very active volunteers. There were some people who attended the meeting who had very strong feelings about awarding the tender to deliver Healthwatch Leeds to the consortia partners, over a bid submitted by Leeds LINk. There’s a risk that there may be existing negativity about awarding the bid to the consortia over the LINk bid, and we as an organisation are going to have to work hard to make sure existing and very active LINk members feel able to sign-up to our mission and values, and help us implement what we plan to achieve.
What is my plan for acting to keep existing LINk members on board?
It’s going to be really important to look at any hurt feelings, and provide a safe and supportive space to enable them to be expressed in an appropriate and respectful manner, in order that we can all move forward in good faith. I’m going to actively seek out people who can help me understand these feelings better, and if you feel this way, I’m very happy to engage with you and work out how to ensure you’re included in this process.
Communication with volunteers from LINk and other networks
Healthwatch Leeds has been delaying the development of some of the programme it will be delivering, because the organisation is still in the process of initial recruitment, including recruiting for the Board. It must be very frustrating for people used to actively volunteering that we are still working on our “Volunteer Offer”.
Recruitment processes will cause delay, and I actually think it’s best to ensure we get things like the Director in post before we make too many fixed plans. But, I think that modelling our stated values of transparency and openness includes keeping people updated of where we are, even if there isn’t much to report.
The consortia partners have worked really hard on lots of very exciting stuff about values and mission, which will drive all recruitment, ultimately influencing all decisions made. But, I think it’s unsustainable for it to ignore the valid frustration of people that feel they’re not listened to. There hasn’t been enough effort made by HWL to keep in touch with existing volunteer networks since the consortia took over the delivery of Healthwatch in April. I think this has been an oversight by the organisation, who might not be aware of how this may be perceived as dismissing or devaluing the valuable work that so many people have done over the preceding period. I’ve offered this feedback to the organisation, and I feel sure there will be action on this.
What I plan to do to improve engagement strategy at HWL
I met with our new Chair today and we suggest that I provide some non-executive support to the task-group concerned with developing an engagement strategy. I expect this to be the first area of work that I will get directly involved with in Healthwatch. We also need to clearly re-iterate our values and mission, including giving clear information about how to get in touch, and with whom, and what accountability is in place for receiving and integrating any feedback. We must ensure we do this in every communication, from phone calls through email newsletters and in person. I’ll be acting on this next week and I will update you as and when there is further news.
How do we do better with less?
There was a very distinct difference in the bid that won the contract to deliver Healthwatch Leeds compared to the way LINk has worked in the past, partiularly in the area of volunteer expenses. However, another element of the bid was the increased staff support and training budget available to volunteers.
One of the positive results of this is the consideration that now must be made of the many routes to involvement that don’t involve public meetings. Can our volunteers FaceTime or Skype us instead of attending in person? Can we do more work collaboratively and virtually reducing the number or length of meetings?
What will I do to ensure full participation of disabled people in HWL?
As a disabled person, I’m worried that there may be some implicit disablism if these budget constraints limit the volunteering opportunities available to people with higher support needs, such as personal assistants. I need to know more about how HWL intends to ensure the widest participation in HWL is maintained, using the stated budgets.
I need to be satisfied that there has been due consideration of the risk of reducing involvement of the very people I would expect us to be listening to. I want to know how we will be ensuring the appropriate resources are available to facilitate disabled people who want to be involved. I will update you on this as the situation develops. Please be aware that this is likely to develop over the next months rater than days or weeks.
Task: contrasting ways of meeting training, opportunities, and accessibility needs
The group used some time at the meeting to offer feedback and ideas about how to address issues of training, volunteering opportunities and access. I wasn’t present for this work, but I have got some photographs of the results of the work that I want to share, in a spirit of openness and transparency. The feedback is being integrated by the team at HWL and will help them to define our “Volunteer Offer” much more clearly, a big thank-you to everyone who engaged with this and offered such a lot of ideas and experience.
Young people and Healthwatch Leeds
I was delighted to meet three very impressive young adults who came along to the meeting and who sat through a lot of (boring?) discussion about things that didn’t seem relevant to the questions they wanted answers to. We had a sub-meeting in a separate room, to look in detail about what they needed from us. I was amazed by the assets these three people represent, and I hope they’re going to help us hear more from communities in Leeds that our statutory services and some voluntary organisations find harder to hear, such as young people.
What am I going to do to act on the young peoples’ feedback?
I got a good sense that we aren’t going to be able to engage young people through traditional “town hall” meetings and public events through this small meeting. I’m communicating directly with the three young people, and I’m going to blog about our conversation in more detail in my next post.
Please note I’ve updated my page about my work at Healthwatch Leeds to include some information on my boundaries regarding communications with me about this work.
Opportunities coming up Soon at @HWLeeds
Volunteer for us! We are looking for 15 people to attend a workshop run by NEF in Leeds on 19th June.
Work for us! We’re currently recruiting for an administrator and we’ve got several roles for community involvement facilitators.
Healthwatch Leeds: About Us (including info about Mission and Values) http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/content/about
Healthwatch Leeds: ClaireOT’s page http://claireot.wordpress.com/healthwatch-leeds/
Heathwatch Leeds: Our Chair: Linn Phipps http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/our-new-chair-linn-phipps
Heathwatch Leeds: Our Director: Janet Somers http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/healthwatch-leeds-appoints-new-director
Heathwatch Leeds: Our Vice-Chair: Claire Jones http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/healthwatch-leeds-appoints-claire-jones-vice-chair
Volunteer for us! http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/volunteering-opportunity
Work for us! Administrator role http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/vacancy-healthwatch-administrator
Work for us! Community and Information Facilitator roles: http://healthwatchleeds.org.uk/news/article/vacancy-community-and-information-facilitator