Blog: Our year in review
In this blog, the first in our new programme of guest blogs from our staff team and experts by experience, Your Voice Counts Chief Executive David Woolley shares some of our recent news and reflects on the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on our organisation.
Our year in review
By David Woolley, Chief Executive, Your Voice Counts
Looking back to this time last year, we had just settled into our new office on West Street in Gateshead, putting us right in the heart of the community with the hope that this would make it easier for clients and colleagues to see us and give us a better space for hosting the drop-in sessions and face to face appointments which have always been a central part of how we build relationships and deliver our services.
Fast forward a few months and our new office became something of a distant memory for us all, as we were forced to start working remotely and find ways to navigate this new world in order to maintain our services that are depended upon by so many people in our region.
However, while the move to homeworking put on hold some of our plans around maximising our new office space I’m proud to say we didn’t come to a standstill and we’ve been able to push ahead with our aims for the organisation, and much of this is thanks to some changes we made earlier on in the 2019/2020 financial year that put us in a great position to respond to the challenges the pandemic brought our way.
Restructuring our Board and leadership team is just one of the ways we’ve developed Your Voice Counts and we were delighted to welcome Christina Gates as Co-Chair of our Board to work alongside our long-standing Co-Chair Lisa Kelly. Christina has a wealth of experience helping to guide and grow organisations to achieve their full potential and is determined to ensure that the people we support are at the centre of our leadership. To help with this, we created a new Board support role dedicated to exploring innovative ways of making our Board meetings accessible for people with learning disabilities and our other beneficiaries.
Listening to the voices of lived experience and putting the people who use our services at the heart of our governance is a priority for us and undoubtedly helped us to ensure our Covid-19 response took into account the specific needs of our different customer groups. For example, our face to face work and the relationships we build with our clients who have learning disabilities or autism has always been one of our strengths but earlier on in the year we spent some time looking at the structure of our organisation and realised we wanted this work to be more joined up. To do this, we brought together our Help First and Group Work activity into one programme which we now call Communities and created a new role on our leadership team to drive this service forward. This groundwork proved to be invaluable when the pandemic began and the team was able to mobilise an entirely new offer to support our clients in line with lockdown restrictions at the time they needed us most.
Our close working relationships with our partners, funders and commissioners has also been key to our Covid response, enabling us to adapt and innovate and, while there’s no doubt there will be many more difficult times to come, I’m confident that the organisational changes we’ve made and the partnerships we have will stand us in good stead to meet any challenges head on. The support we provide is needed now more than ever before, but our fantastic teams have already demonstrated the difference they can make when our clients need their support and I couldn’t be prouder of them.