I often smile to myself when I think how my everyday vocabulary now includes words such as COVID-19, Zoom, Teams, furlough. This is a reminder of the journey we have been on over the past 6 months. To say that ‘our world came crashing down’ in March would be an understatement of the emotional reality of my journey as CEO. Running a charity will always have the dilemma between financial sustainability and why the charity exists in the first place. The onset of the COVID pandemic threw this ‘usual’ dilemma into a new stratosphere. What do I do? Do I save the charity or do I continue to run it and support the people we work with and how on earth can I even attempt to do both? Oh, and by the way I have about 24 hours to make that decision! Instinct took over and immediately we made sure that all our families were catered for first by ‘lifting all services up’ and transporting them to cyberspace. Staff were all amazing and immediately set out to juggle childcare, families and their own journey into the unknown with the commitment to our families that, I believe, is the cornerstone of the charitable sector. I spent many a waking hour trying to figure out the best way for everyone – families, staff, the charity and even more ‘sleeping’ hours working out the same issues!
The ‘lockdown’ part of the journey felt the hardest at that time. Little did I know how tough moving out of it would be! How do we deliver hands-on services for some of the most vulnerable people in our society? How do we ensure that our families do not lose out valuable time on their life journey and become secondary casualties of this pandemic? I am proud to say that we have come together and used every ounce of creativity to provide a safe environment for our families to flourish whilst simultaneously running a continued remote service for those who are yet to find their way back to any sense of safety or normality. This however is still, to this day, unstable. We have plans for every eventuality – local lockdown, self-isolation of staff, full lockdown – each one more complicated than the other but we are ready!
So, where does this leave us in the future? The charity is feeling the strain of loss of voluntary income, the financial future very uncertain BUT we have demonstrated the ability to ‘think outside of the box’; be brave and creative, make compromises, pull together and demonstrate a resilience I don’t think any of us knew we had within us. This has led to a new chapter for NICE – 50% of me is scared and 50% is excited. I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that our families need us more than ever, they need us to be there fighting for their right to receive the services they deserve and need and most importantly to be sure that they do not become the ‘forgotten victims of COVID-19’. To do this my job now is to lead NICE into a new future direction which will bring new services, new ideas and ensure we will be here for generations to come.