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Keeping the Promise Amidst Persistent Strains: A call for sustainable change in social care and the third sector

As the CEO of our esteemed charity, A-ND for over three years now, I've witnessed first-hand the profound dedication that fuels not only our small charity, but our wider sector. The passion, values, and commitment exhibited by our team and many like us across the social care and third sectors are exceptional. These qualities are what enable our communities to continue receiving critical support, even in challenging times, experienced more over the last few years than ever before. Yet, this remarkable dedication often comes at a cost, a cost that's becoming increasingly unsustainable for many.

 

The Toll of Unwavering Commitment

 

Our team members are often required to make personal sacrifices that those in many other sectors might never even contemplate. While we provide an abundance of training at A-ND, including trauma-informed practice and strive to bolster resilience, these measures are not panaceas. They cannot fully compensate for the ongoing sacrifices our people make - sacrifices of personal time, well-being, and sometimes, their own mental health.

 

Recently, our organisation faced a poignant departure - one of our most valued and integral members chose to leave. This decision was not made lightly; it came with a heavy heart. They are soon to move on to a role in the public sector where they can still make a meaningful impact but with a better balance between work and personal life, a secure contract, and improved overall quality of life. This shift allows them to maintain a meaningful career while also enjoying life, relationships, and time with loved ones - without the constant expectation to go that extra mile every day, often standard in third sector, less so in others. This is one of several departures we have sadly experienced throughout 2024 so far, notably for the similar reasons.

 

Systemic Challenges

 

Despite our best efforts to be an exemplary employer and create the best possible experiences for our team, we are perpetually hamstrung by relentless resource shortages, impractical commissioning approaches, and unrealistic expectations of what can be achieved with limited funds and resources. This environment not only wears down our team at every level, but also forces some of our brightest and most talented individuals to leave our organisation, and worse, the wider sector.

 

The departure of such valuable team members is a recurring theme, driven by the unsustainable demands placed on them. And yet, the expectations placed on our sector continue to grow, often disconnected from the realities we face on the ground.

 

Striving for Change and Innovation

 

I have endeavoured over the last three years leading A-ND to confront these challenges head-on, collaborating with numerous partners to reshape the system, discover new, creative solutions, and develop innovative approaches to funding and income generation. Despite these efforts, some more successful than others, I find many of our team constantly pouring all they have into their work - striving to make the magic happen, not occasionally, but daily, until they have little, or worse, nothing left to give.

 

How can we continue to expect them to give from an empty cup? How is it justifiable to continually deplete their reserves without providing the conditions they rightfully deserve and need to continue delivering their excellent work?


While we have and continue to make signifanct strides and changes to to better support our team, the change needed is much bigger and must come from more than only us.

 

An Invitation for Dialogue and Improvement

 

This blog is not written to point fingers, assign blame, or criticise further a system we already widely recognise as flawed. Instead, it is an expression of my reflections, concerns, and an invitation to a conversation on how we can make sustainable improvements, and importantly, take active action.

 

There are no immediate answers or solutions it would seem, however my commitment - along with our team's - is unwavering. We will continue to work relentlessly towards fulfilling our promise, ensuring we have a supported workforce that can provide the vital support needed by our children, adults, and families. However, the sorrow of losing yet another magnificent team member weighs heavily on us, amplifying the urgency for change.

 

I invite you, our community, our partners, and policymakers, to engage in this crucial dialogue and take active action. Together, surely, we can find sustainable ways to not only keep, but also enrich The Promise we've made to Scotland’s care experienced community and those we serve. Let's ensure that our dedication does not come at the cost of those who deliver it.

 

Best,

 

B



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