For over 30 years, the charity Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS) has worked in partnership with health and social care to ensure hospice and palliative care services are provided for babies, children and young people (0-21) and their families across Scotland. CHAS support families across Scotland in homes, their two hospices, Rachel House in Kinross and Robin House in Balloch and in hospitals, through the heartbreak of knowing their child may die young.
With a clear focus on reviewing and improving the management of health and safety, CHAS partnered with AAB People in March 2023. With 300 employees across 11 sites in Scotland and around 800 volunteers, the primary aim was to ensure that its policies and procedures were compliant and workable. The plan was to upskill key staff on their health and safety responsibilities with a particular focus on risk assessment, review health and safety training across the organisation, improve the communication of health and safety and develop a health and safety hub where all staff could access and share health and safety documents and information.
Chief Operating Officer Jane Smith tasked Lee Craig and the health and safety team to guide CHAS on the key priorities for improvement, to review and understand work underway at CHAS through their health and safety Improvement group and to work together to agree a health and safety action plan and deadlines in line with wider CHAS objectives.
From March 2023, AAB People worked closely with the charity on several fronts including reviewing the existing policy and procedures, carrying out comprehensive site visits at all of the CHAS main sites, and delivering risk assessment training across the organisation. This was followed by risk assessment workshops with each team to understand, review and support their approach and, to demystify misconceptions among staff about risk assessment.
With their collective knowledge and experience of working within the charity and care sectors, the AAB Team provided an ideal cultural fit in supporting Jane and the wider senior leadership team. They worked very much in partnership to ensure that recommendations and solutions were not only compliant with health and safety law but also practical and workable within the organisation.
A key objective was to break down any barriers to health and safety. The AAB team quickly integrated themselves within CHAS, working with managers and others to support a range of ongoing and emerging health and safety issues, and building effective relationships with a wide range of managers and staff across the organisation. The team supported risk assessment for planned events, provided advice and guidance on managing a confined space hazard, reviewed safety concerns in outdoor garden areas at the hospice sites, contributed support and guidance on fire safety and provided general advice on a range of issues being managed by the organisation.
Aligned with the health and safety improvement plan, CHAS as an organisation was undergoing internal restructuring, including within their facilities team. There was a clear focus on planning for the ongoing management of health and safety and allocation of important health and safety responsibilities. Lee worked closely with Jane and the senior leadership team to revise the health and safety policy and to ensure that those health and safety responsibilities were clearly established and understood.
A strong commitment was made by CHAS to drive through the consultation process, ensure that the improvement plan moved forward, and engage and involve managers and staff across the organisation.
The focus then turned to embedding the new policy and procedures, reviewing and refreshing training, implementing an audit programme to measure performance; implementing technical solutions to improve the accessibility of health and safety information and planning to go from compliance to excellence.
A huge amount of ground has been covered by CHAS since March 2023. The management team were focused and driven, proactive and committed to achieving excellence in their management of health and safety. Their commitment to their staff and volunteers equals their commitment to the children and families that they support on a daily basis.
AAB People’s role has been to support CHAS on this journey, recognise and understand their values and ensure that our support reflects not just the law, but also the dynamic and culture of the organisation. CHAS epitomises the HSE essential principles of leading health and safety by providing strong and active leadership from the top.
COO Jane Smith values AAB People’s long-term support and impact from several viewpoints:
“Lee is fantastic. Her cross-sector background and experience in social care environments has been invaluable. It’s clear to all of us at CHAS that her breadth of expertise sit perfectly with us and align with our values.”
“What we needed and valued was not just health and safety expertise but her considered, friendly, systematic approach, focused on building lasting relationships right across CHAS and introducing a structure around our activities that everyone understands. She and her team have helped us steady the ship and regularly deliver important milestone goals. They’ve given us the confidence and insight that this is a long-term journey in which we will reach all our health and safety goals. She’s helped us develop a plan that we can take to our Board with assurance that our reinforced controls, checks and balances around risk assessments are the right way forward.”
“As COO, my background is not in health and safety, so Lee’s guidance has had an immense impact on me and my role and responsibilities. I have felt my shoulders drop, thanks to her pragmatism, responsiveness and sheer breadth of expertise in a multi-venue social care environment that has a wide spectrum of potential health and safety challenges.”
“I particularly welcome Lee’s positive approach to the management of health and safety risks in children and family spaces. Where other policies or advisers might advocate restrictions around certain activities, she has encouraged a ‘we can do it, as long as we do it safely’ approach’, which enables us, for example, to continue to provide a range of fun activities in our gardens and play areas for supporting families – a vital part of our service.
AAB People have been happy to work with us collaboratively on a considerable journey with an understanding that they’ll guide us to the eventual point where we can manage health and safety in-house, supported by their annual reviews and ongoing advice on any emerging issues.”