This week’s guest blog comes from Rhona Hunter, Chief Executive of Circle.
Circle has just held its fourth Annual Lecture and my first as Chief Executive. Ewan kindly chaired this for us and asked the questions, “Why health inequalities?” and “Why now?”. My response was that I hear a lot from politicians and policy makers about children having the best start in life and the desire to improve outcomes for children. Yet in my 30+ years as a social worker I have never seen so many families living in poverty, relying on food banks and being housed in unsuitable accommodation as I do now.
Only the other day my colleague was telling me about a homeless single parent family with 4 children being accommodated into a hostel, in one room with no cooking facilities. We have been providing a hot meal to that family on a daily basis to try to counteract the impact on their health of this unacceptable situation that they find themselves in. In this day and age, when we know the impact of adverse childhood experiences on children’s long term health, this is truly shocking. Circle has also referred 114 families to foodbanks in the past 6 months. This is not the Scotland that either my colleagues or I want for the families that we support.
The Annual Lecture was our opportunity to highlight the inequalities faced by families and what we do to help folk overcome these obstacles. One of our parents, Becky, spoke about her experiences. She highlighted that Circle’s persevering approach and the relationships we had built with her and her family had made the difference. This was a theme throughout the lecture, and as Ewan said, “You should treat folk like you would want to be treated yourself”. Dr Mary Hepburn and Dr Anne Whittaker spoke passionately about people’s experiences of poverty and inequalities but concluded that good relationships made the difference.
I truly believe that helping people to make positive changes in their lives relies on how well we can work together. On a daily basis I see staff show empathy, warmth, respect, honesty and reliability, and that’s what makes an impact. That’s why I came to Circle almost 6 years ago as a Project Manager, and that’s what motivates me on a daily basis. We also don’t give up on people and although I like to draw the line at ‘stalking’, we do pro-actively work with people to ensure they have easy access to support.
My pet dislike is when people are described as ‘hard to reach’. I would argue that it is some services that are hard to reach. If you see people in their own home or their community at a time that suits them, I’ve found that people are pretty easy to reach and appreciate that they don’t have to get on 2 buses with small children to access support.
In my new post as Chief Executive I see myself in a privileged position where I can use my role to speak up for families, ensure that we advocate for them and influence policy makers. I want families who come to Circle to know that we will stand up for their rights and will make every effort to help people make a better life for themselves and their families.
Rhona Hunter, Chief Executive, Circle
30th October 2017