Saturday, 2 April 2011

Saturday 2nd April 2011 - my big mixed week

Its been both a joyous and a sad week. And a very big and momentous week at Brook. And as a result this morning I was so tired this morning I could hardly stand up. It was the need for breakfast that finally forced me to get out of bed.

Yesterday we launched the new Brook organisation. To make this happen, on Thursday the national office board who owned the Brook licence, brand and trademarks etc, assigned all the rights to the new Brook board and the Brook Network of independently constituted charities became part of one new Brook organisation. Although Brook in Northern Ireland did not join the organisation at this stage discussions continue and all of us remain focused on and committed to meeting the sexual health needs of young people in Northern Ireland with its particular culture around sex and sexuality.

The face of the voluntary and community sector is changing, with unprecedented mergers and collaborations being developed to find creative and thoughtful responses to weather the economic environment and continue delivering services for their users as best as possible. And whilst the economic environment is important and there will be financial benefits in our new structure, Brook's change was based on our strategic requirements following the publication of our strategy over two years ago. A proactive rather than reactive move. And I am sure it is absolutely the right one.

The strategy set out an ambitious goal to double the numbers of young people we reach each year. This change in our organisational design and governance structure will enable us to better achieve this goal. And the discussions and work that got us to April 1st have been robust, challenging and enormous. I am immensely proud to have been part of the process and thank everyone - trustees, staff, consultants, lawyers, supporters for making this incredible journey happen. I particularly want to thank the outgoing national trustees who have been there from the beginning and whose vision, boldness, support and challenge has been truly remarkable. They have been a pleasure to work for and with since I started at Brook in 2006. I will miss them enormously.

And now the real work starts - I keep reminding myself that this is the starting line, not the finishing line! The interim senior management team meets on Monday and Tuesday to identify how we will work effectively together, and establish our priorities for the year. The interim team led by me brings together a mix of existing Centre Directors, national office senior staff and someone new to the organisation which is a heady mix that is absolutely right for the transitional year.

The second phase of trustee recruitment has already begun. We are looking for six new trustees to join an already strong board. We are looking for a 2 service users, a treasurer, as well trustees with expertise in safeguarding, clinical leadership and parliamentary and policy. Further details will be on the website next week. Do look if you are interested. Recruitment also starts for the permanent CEO later this month with the aim being to get the permanent CEO in post from October 2011.

Thursday was also a sad day: like many other organisations across the country we closed the doors on services for the last time. For us it was our service in Stockton. Young people are now expected to use all age services with a new provider. I cannot believe young people will not lose out under the new arrangements. Whilst I do not agree with the rationale to close specialist services for young people and I don't believe it will generate the savings Stockton is looking for, I sincerely hope the new services provided by sexual health Teeside will be used by young people, particularly the most vulnerable, and that the hard work that has gone into reducing teenage pregnancy rates which remained stubbornly high until the last couple of years, will not be undone. I will watch closely with interest.

I went to the Stockton team's closing party on Wednesday night, and despite the uncertainty for many of them about their individual futures, I was impressed and humbled by their spirit, solidarity and continued commitment to young people in Stockton and to Brook. In the face of difficult cuts, it can be hard to focus on the successes of the service and what has been achieved for young people over the last four years since it opened. The closure was particularly poignant for me as it was the first new service that opened under 'my watch'. Of course it had all the normal bumps along the way, and some more. And through the dogged determination of staff Brook Stockton we had quickly become a respected provider of services and an expert in young people's sexual health. It is ironic and sad that it is closing down when it had really started to fly and make a difference.

I have just had a call from my father whilst I was typing this blog. When I was at Uni in the early 90s I was tipped off about some shares to buy. As far as we knew I had wasted the £100 which I had scraped together from an overdraft, but a letter has arrived and it looks like I may have made 500% on them. A pleasant surprise.

So, tonight I look forward to seeing my partner. It is fair to say I have been absent from home both mentally and physically for the last month or so, and I look forward to spending some proper time catching up on our tales.

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