Christmas is nearly here. Whether you celebrate the holiday or use the time for rest and to see family, I think all of us are hoping for a better Christmas than last year. There is a lot of uncertainty around the next month, and I know this will impact people’s mental health. Make sure to look after yourself over the holiday season, both your physical and mental wellbeing.  

Our staff at Response have always put in an immense amount of effort at this time of year, often giving up their own family Christmas to ensure our residents have as good a time as possible, and this year will be no exception. Our proudest achievement looking back at 2021 has to be the effort staff have put in during this challenging year.  

We have managed to continue to provide an excellent level of support, positive move on within adult services remains high and positive move on within the YPSA is up 10% this year. We have continued with the children’s mental health support in schools, and the Mental Wealth Academy is going from strength to strength. The Academy is now also operating down in BaNES, Swindon, and Wiltshire, supporting even more young people. We have produced some innovative approaches using technology that have been very well received and we have worked with all our partners across the board to continue delivering high service standards throughout the year. There have been many highlights, but one of them has to be in YPSA when 25 young people went on holiday to Wales for the junior leadership course, for some of them the first holiday they have ever been on.  

We are also currently working with Oxfordshire Youth as part of the Dream Big Fund to raise funds for young people in our services who have not had the same access to opportunities in life. Whether that is making sure they have money for train tickets to get to a job interview, or a suit to wear to that interview or access to fun activities like the theatre. Christmas can be a challenging time for many people, sometimes because we are missing loved ones who are not with us anymore or because it brings back painful memories of not having the same experience as other people. We want to encourage people to help support young people at this time of year, and it really is small things that can make a huge difference.  

We have introduced embedded housing workers on inpatient wards to look at barriers to discharge and possible reasons for readmission, such as significant financial issues, and provide discharge support plans. Our two workers have been very innovative and successful with excellent feedback from staff and the individuals supported. Because of this success, we are looking at expanding this initiative further.  

Last week I attended an Equality Diversity and Inclusion strategy group led by Mo Patel. Mo is Equality Diversity and Inclusion lead for Oxford Health and exceptionally knowledgeable. We have had two great meetings with Mo and members of the board. Going forward, I want to get even more people involved in these meetings.   

I do not want us to be viewing EDI as a box to tick. At Response, we want to acknowledge where we are and how we will get to where we want to be by involving everyone. I want Response to be a welcoming place for everyone, staff, and service users. It won’t be easy; it will need a cultural approach. The more diversity we have in our organisation, the better our services will be. We are at the beginning of our journey, and we want to involve as many people as possible in our process.  

Looking forward to 2022, one of my biggest goals is to see the work we are doing with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion progress and become embedded across the organisation. Additionally, we will see the RReM360 model expanded and fully integrated throughout Response. We are doing lots of work with our board around staff welfare and benefits and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of that. 

The housing team has had perhaps the most tumultuous year, and I look forward to seeing this team develop and flourish under Paulina’s leadership. I know Children and Young People services will continue to provide excellent support, and I hope we can continue expanding this support into new areas. We are fortunate we have had some significant donations from partners and supporters. Our new van supplier Enterprise has donated 2000 pounds to Response which we are looking into setting up a resident hardship fund.  

Whether you are supported by Response, work for Response or work with us, it has been an exceptionally difficult year, but we have got through it, and I want to thank you all for your hard work. This year has taken a toll on all our mental health, so we must continue to support each other, and hopefully, with the booster rollout, we can look forward to a better year in 2022!