APDA CEO highlights the need for leaders to listen as PM snubs Covid-19 bereavement campaigners

Published by Rhys Taylor-Brown on September 3rd 2020, 5:05am

For any aspiring leader, an effective strategy to improve one’s leadership skills is to actively listen to their team members and target audiences to encourage stronger communication and greater cohesion. For Zeenat Jeewa, the CEO of the Asian People’s Disability Alliance [APDA], listening to her workforce, staff, volunteers and those who benefit from her organisation’s services is an integral part of her own leadership style. Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast, Jeewa emphasises the need for leaders to positively engage with those around them, while prime minister Boris Johnson faces criticism for refusing to meet with campaigners representing families bereaved during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leadership in Focus

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, APDA has continued to provide services to meet the needs of disabled people and carers in the local Asian community from its base in Harlesden, Brent, London, and Jeewa has been determined to keep the organisation focused on its aims and objectives despite the disruption to their day-to-day service operations.

In an interview with the Leaders Council’s Scott Challinor, Jeewa said: “Leadership in the context of our organisation is about being focused, dedicated, supportive and above all, listening to our workforce, staff people and volunteers and keeping ourselves focused on our aims and objectives.

“It is important for leaders to listen but also have trust between themselves and their colleagues because sometimes leaders have to be challenged. We need people who think differently and view things differently to be able to adapt, and leaders have to be prepared to take those views on board. In the context of the here and now with the Covid-19 pandemic, this is even more important.”

Candidly discussing how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected APDA’s work, Jeewa described the experience as both a challenging period but nevertheless a rewarding one for helping the community through.

“Covid has been difficult, challenging and rewarding all at once. We experience challenges every day in our community, so we are no strangers to that. We have, however, had to implement new measures to continue to support those people we have been supporting for years.”

Paying tribute to her staff and the local authority for their dedication through the pandemic thus far, Jeewa added: “Our home care staff have been angels and they’ve carried on supporting people in their homes who need care, doing so in a safe way in line with procedures. Local authorities have supported us in our PPE procurement so we can carry on providing our services too.

“Sadly, this time has not come without some sacrifice. Our day care provision did close because we had to prioritise safety for both staff and clients, and that was a tough decision for us to take. We are in talks with local authorities in how we can expand our services in a safe way for those who need it because the day care service was one example of a social hub which helped many people, and without it they have suffered more from social isolation.”

The pandemic has also forced APDA’s hand into transferring some of its services to the virtual domain, as Jeewa elaborated.

She said: “We have tried to adapt our services for everyone who needs it the most by working remotely and reaching out via technology and telephone. It has been a hugely challenging time but also so rewarding in that we have been able to help people.

“Mental health has been underestimated for many years and we as an organisation have been raising the subject in our communities and beyond. Social isolation which has come about as a result of lockdown is affecting people and it’s important that we do our best to liven people up and keep conversations going any way we can. This way, there is some hope of us all coming back to a different way of life and a bit of normality in future and nobody in the meantime is left isolated.”

Leadership Today

Prime minister Boris Johnson has come under fire after declining to meet campaigners representing families suffering bereavement through the Covid-19 pandemic.

Johnson said as recently as last week that he would be willing “to meet the bereaved” when asked about the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice campaign group looking to arrange a meeting with him.

The group has since publicised a letter from the prime minister in which he “regrettably” said he was “unable” to meet with them.

The letter, dated August 29, said that the PM offered his “sincere condolences to all the families who have lost loved ones”, adding: "As much as I would wish to be able to offer my condolences in person to all those who have suffered loss, that is regrettably not possible and so I am unable to meet with you and members of Bereaved Families for Justice."

Johnson said in the letter than an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic would be carried out “at the appropriate time” and that any further correspondence from the group regarding an inquiry “should pass through the respective legal teams.”

Jo Goodman, the founder of the campaign group, whose father died of Covid-19, called the prime minister “heartless”.

She said: “It’s a U-turn followed by a U-turn. The Prime Minister has done a 360: dodging five letters, then agreeing on live TV to meet with us, and now quietly telling us he's too busy. It's heartless."

The Labour Party said that refusing to meet campaigners was a “new low” for the prime minister.

Labour shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, said: "For him to privately go back on his public word and refuse [to meet with campaigners is] astounding, and upsetting for so many whose families and lives have been impacted by Covid in this way.

"41,504 people have tragically lost their lives to this virus. The very least the prime minister could do is respond truthfully to their families and have the heart to meet some of them and their representatives."

During Wednesday's Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament, Johnson told MPs that he "will be very happy to meet the families of the bereaved" but added that "this particular group [Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice] are currently in litigation against the government", hence his refusal to meet. The campaigners denied the PM's claims. 

Leadership in History

This day in 1939 brought a major event in the history of the United Kingdom, as the country made a declaration of war against Nazi Germany alongside France, New Zealand and Australia, forming the Allied nations.

The declaration of war came at 11:15am on the day, as prime minister Neville Chamberlain addressed the nation via radio. The UK had given Führer Adolf Hitler an ultimatum to withdraw troops from Poland following the German invasion of the country two days earlier.

The invasion, Hitler’s refusal to withdraw German forces, and the subsequent declaration of war from the Allies sparked the beginning of the Second World War. The war in Europe would end with the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8, 1945, after six years of conflict.

Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

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Authored By

Rhys Taylor-Brown
Junior Editor
September 3rd 2020, 5:05am

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