Bield continue with plans for future growth

Bield held its first virtual AGM on September 17 which was a welcomed challenged as the charity continues to adapt and update their services to use the latest digital technology to serve customers.

Dr.Lesley Holdsworth, Chair of Bield’s Board of Management, made a speech to the meeting – which is summarised here:

A very warm welcome to you all to what is Bield’s 49th AGM and what a momentous one and quite unique! I became chair of Bield, after two years as vice chair, taking over the reigns from Susan Napier at the beginning of March of this year and life has not in any way been as I expected it to be! I want to start with formally thanking Susan for her considerable efforts made during her chairmanship of Bield and for her very wise council, I’m pleased that Susan is staying on the Board for a while yet as she has invaluable experience in this sector that we all draw from, so thank you Susan.

In my experience AGMs are really good for focusing on exactly what’s happened over the last year and I don't need to tell you that by anyone’s standards, this has been a truly exceptional time.

AGMs provide the opportunity to share the positives and also reflect on what we’ve learned.

When I became Chair of Bield earlier this year, I had presumed that I would be overseeing the final phase of our planned restructure which will see Bield continue to grow as a strong and sustainable housing provider for older people in Scotland. Without a doubt however, COVID-19 has slowed some elements of our progress with this agenda but our efforts are now resuming and plans are in place to ensure that we move forward in a way that responds to the needs and wants of our customers, our tenants and owners and that we consolidate our position of being one of the leading providers of high quality housing for older people in Scotland.

When COVID-19 arrived on our shores earlier this year, it brought with it, potential personal and organisational danger and very real challenges. I am so proud however of the way that Bield has responded so expertly to this pandemic making sure we do everything possible to protect our customers, volunteers and workforce. You will be aware that last year, we announced the appointment of a new CEO, Dr Lynne Douglas. Lynne started working with us at Bield late last year and in fact we have a completely new senior management team who have had to grasp with not only working in a new organisation but during a time of pandemic. Val Hunter joined us last Easter as Director of Business Development, Paula Rice as Director of Finance & and most recently, Diana Maclean as Director of Customer Experience. Another addition to the senior management team has been Iain Baxter who brings a wealth of experience in technology and change. What a baptism of fire this has been for them all! What I can report however and with great admiration is how skillfully the full senior team has rallied, but also with care, commitment and kindness, pulling together and providing timely communications and action. What I have seen from them in terms of leadership, cohesion, clarity of action and dedication has been really amazing. The Board have been hugely reassured during this difficult time and it’s clear to see how we’ve all benefitted from their approach. They’ve worked together to develop new processes and working arrangements at a pace and scale that has kept our people as safe as possible and also to keep Bield moving forward, and for that we thank them.

I also want to formally thank our development and support staff as well as our volunteers who have really stepped up during the pandemic. They have responded to the challenges superbly and your dedication is fully recognised and appreciated. So many stories of their selfless acts all to keep their customers safe have been just tremendous and quite emotional at times. We have without doubt a wonderful workforce. Our BR24 service were deployed to work from home within a very short period of time but they provided a seamless, continuous and efficient service throughout with no drop in service levels. I am amazed at how well they have managed and capacity has actually increased through this change. This allows us to provide services to not only our own customers but from other housing associations and local authorities.

We are just putting the finishing touches to this year’s annual report and when you have the chance to read it, you will see that it places a great emphasis on kindness and the past few months have really reminded us of its importance in our lives and particularly now. In this year alone we’ve witnessed so many acts of kindness and seen the obvious difference they’ve made to the quality of life for all. Communities coming together to support our developments, donations of treats, PPE and entertainment that tell us that our Bield developments are well loved by their communities. We have been so taken with these random and planned acts and their impact on lives that we have decided going forward we will be including ‘kindness’ in our core values, the ethos which drives us. 

Although we continue to put safety and well-being at the heart of our current efforts, we are still going ahead with our plans for future growth. The Board of Bield have been and remain fully supportive of both the focus of the last few months and the need to enact the vision we have for the future. As you know, we have been through a significant restructure over the last 18 months, with firstly coming out of the care home sector to focus our activities on providing high quality housing and care services. This was followed by a restructure of our support services to reflect our new focus which involved change for many of our staff. I am pleased to report that this phase was completed as intended in April of this year. Obviously, the majority of our efforts over the last few months have focused on the challenges of COVID-19 but we feel we now have good and safe processes in place and are now in a position to restart our plans for modernisation, sustainability and future development. We recognise that our staff and volunteers are our greatest asset, we are nothing without them and therefore we have started on a major piece of work that will see the publication of a People Strategy and work plan to ensure we have a valued workforce with the right skills and understanding and that we are recognised as an employer of choice. Another area of major development for us for the next couple of years is our approach to how we better use technology and digital solutions. We are clear that not only do we need to be using the technology available to support us in how we work but also for how it can benefit our customers. As well as developing a strategy in this area with leadership from Ian, we have also established new partnerships. We are working with colleagues in Scottish Government and the Digital Health and Care Institute on digital projects that will have great benefits for our tenants and owners. We are really entering an exciting time at Bield and our path is clear.

In terms of the actual Board of Bield, over the next few months there will be further changes, I would like to use this opportunity to thank Gerry O’Sullivan, Janette Stone and Moira Sibbald for their valued input and service, they are all standing down from the Board.  Moira has served on the Board for the last three years and we thank her for the expertise she has brought and wish her well with the future. Gerry is well known to many of us in the Housing sector and first became involved with Bield over 10 years ago. He was also chair of the Board for five of those years and we have all benefited from his positive attitude, his extensive knowledge of the housing sector and penchant for a chocolate biscuit. We will miss you Gerry and the Board meetings will not be the same without you. We would normally mark such service with the presentation of a small gift which is hard to do over the internet however, we have organised for a little something to be delivered to you which I hope you will enjoy! As we say goodbye to some well known faces we also welcome some new ones. We are delighted to welcome Graeme Russell and Eric Lewis. Graeme joins us from his pre-retirement post as CEO of Manor Estates HA and therefore has a wealth of experience that will benefit us all. We do have a tenant representative Board member in Willie Smalley and it has been our intention to add to our customer focus at all levels of the organisation. So I am also delighted to welcome Eric who is our first Bield owner representative and really look forward to the perspective that Eric will bring to the Board. The contribution that both Graeme and Eric bring will strengthen our expertise and ensure that we continue to support the delivery of our strategy. We will be adding to the expertise of the Board in the near future as it’s important that any Board is regularly refreshed and has the full set of skills needed around the table and I look forward to announcing these further changes in the near future. I would also like to use this opportunity pay thanks to Robert Fernie and Margaret Moore who as vice chairs provide great support to me in the role of Chair   – thank you both, I’m really enjoying working with you both and your council is invaluable.

The strategic direction that we have set ourselves is bold and ambitious and we fully realise that there is still much to do. But even when there are dark clouds above us, there are still many opportunities and we will continue to seek out new partnerships and new ways of working.

I fully appreciate that we are living in uncertain times and predicting the immediate future is difficult. BUT there are some things I am very clear and determined about – firstly is that Bield will continue to consolidate its position and champion our core values, including kindness, putting them at the very heart of what we do. We are ambitious for the future. We will move forward with our vision to enhance our reputation as an employer AND housing & care provider of choice. We cannot forget however that Bield will be 50 years old next year and we will most definitely be celebrating this momentous milestone in real style and in many different ways. If you have any thoughts and ideas about how we should be marking this occasion, please do get in touch.

And finally, I look forward to the day when we can all gather in a room and chat more about this important organisation, however, until then, I wish you and your loved ones well at this difficult time and hope that regardless of the restrictions on our lives, you can still find joy and fun in what you do.