Date: 24th July 2020

Westbank would like to update you on how we plan to re-open services and activities at all our sites and within the community.

We hope this will give you some clarity and reassurance.

Our values as a charity

We will not rush back to ‘business as usual’. The safety of staff, volunteers and service users; and our long-term capacity to deliver our mission as a charity; will be key.

The quality of our response to the pandemic has been widely recognised and welcomed. And this is because we have stuck to our values:

  • We have acted with compassion and integrity – stepping up where needed for the most isolated and vulnerable, and standing back when other groups and organisations have been better placed to act.
  • We have valued every individual – doing all we can to support our staff and volunteers, and taking sometimes difficult decisions to protect jobs.
  • We have worked together to support the whole community – working collaborateively across teams, and with our partners, and reaching out to those who might otherwise have been missed.
  • And finally we have been willing to learn, to innovate and to lead – quickly and effectively reconfiguring services, and sharing our experiences (good and bad) with colleagues and organisations across Devon.

Our future as a charity

We have to be honest about the financial impact of the pandemic. We have fared better than some charities but already it has reduced our income by over a hundred thousand pounds. We have done all we can to mitigate that impact – for example by applying for grants, creating new income streams, and furloughing staff – and we are lucky to have reserves in hand. Westbank will survive and has a future.

But the pandemic is not over. And some of the changes it has brought will be with us for the foreseeable future. We have to assume some of our services may never be able to operate the same way again, and unfortunately this may mean losing some dedicated staff.

It is our values, and in particular our capacity to learn and innovate, that will ensure Westbank comes back more focussed and stronger.

As we plan to re-open services and activities we are taking the time to review some of them, to identify and understand

  • if we can re-open services, for example some may no longer be needed or financially viable;
  • what we can/need to do to improve services that do re-open, to ensure they are effective, safe and sustainable long-term; and,
  • what additional services – building on those set up during the pandemic – we can develop and sustain to meet long-term needs in our communities.

Managers and staff are working on this review; these include catering, daycare, hospitality, fitness and our charity shop in Starcross. Their work is being informed by the views of staff, volunteers and the community, that we have been gathering throughout the pandemic.

Throughout this challenging time, we have responded quickly to the needs of the community, our team and volunteers, by continually reviewing and adapting our services and how we work.

We installed new phone lines giving people in the local community a direct route to the help they needed. To date, our team of community supporters have provided over 9,000 acts of kindness, to over 650 households. Use of new technology, such as Zoom, has enabled us all to deliver online activities.

As we re-open services and activities the wellbeing of staff, volunteers and service users is paramount. We are putting safety measures in place, increasing sanitising stations, enhancing our cleaning schedules, and more. We are risk assessing each service and activity and publishing the resulting Safe System of Work (SSoW) on our website.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Matthew Byrne

Chief Executive, Westbank