Managing through Covid-19 has been all about adapting and overcoming for CYCA as PM outlines new measures

Published by Scott Challinor on September 22nd 2020, 12:12pm

Prime minister Boris Johnson has today outlined new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 and prevent a devastating second wave of deaths over the winter. Meanwhile, Tracy Pike MBE, the CEO of Welsh children’s charity Connecting Youth, Children & Adults [CYCA], has spoken about how her organisation has had to adapt its entire provision of services to continue to operate through the crisis so far, changes which should leave CYCA in good stead as the situation unfolds.

Leadership in Focus

Reflecting on early 2020 when the UK lockdown was first called, Pike told the Leaders Council that CYCA was left with little choice but to shakeup its entire service provision, effectively overnight.

Pike said: “In my view, the key thing a leader has to be is a risk taker, but they must be able to inspire staff and alleviate the fears that those staff may have about the risks that the leader wants to take. These last few months have shown just how leaders have been tested by Covid-19, and I have had to rethink my whole charity, change and adapt quickly to boost the morale of my staff, even when times are tough.”

Elaborating on the specific steps the organisation was forced to take, Pike explained: “We had to adapt our services overnight. Covid halted a lot of our normal provision of services and our conferences so we had to quickly learn how to use technology functions such as Zoom, we had to adapt how we deliver training, begin to deliver the training in smaller groups, and change the time that we offered training. This involved switching class times to the evenings to allow parents to take part, so that the lack of childcare caused by lockdown could not pose a barrier to their involvement.

“We had to adapt all our policies overnight and undertake new risk assessments for supporting families online, and I was fortunate that we have a good government officer on board who was able to assist with those changes. We also had to change up our counselling services, which are most effectively delivered face-to-face, so we had to devise alternative ways to offer it, and all of our office staff then had to be equipped for the demands of working from home. That meant that I had to rethink my whole leadership style and management of the team to suit leading from a distance.”

As well as rethinking strategy, CYCA also had to come up with solutions on how it would continue to be funded through the crisis. Fortunately, Pike was able to seek assistance from the government to ease any immediate concerns.

She said: “We have been fortunate to be able to access Covid-19 specific grants to purchase laptops for learners and recruit more trainers. This has been needed because we have seen an upsurge in demand for counselling support during this time because of Covid heightening anxiety at home for parents and children. We’ve seen domestic abuse increase during this time with everybody confined to their households, so we’ve had to think quickly about how we can change our approach when we cannot literally go in and visit families which we pride ourselves on.”

Thanks to that government support, CYCA has not just been able to continue to provide its services, but has also made significant steps in its own development.

Pike added: “In five months, we were able to adapt all our services to help us keep working with the most vulnerable. It has been testing times and as a leader I have had to make multiple tough decisions, preserve the wellbeing of my staff and make sure they are in a good place day-to-day. However, they do say that whatever does not kill you makes you stronger, and we have come through this so far and moved into a new centre of excellence in July, which has meant we can return to work and start to see families again, with new Covid-secure procedures in place.”

In Pike’s view, the impact of the lockdown period on mental health has already become apparent in an increase in demand for mental health services, which will mean a cycle of adapting and keeping flexible in the months to come as circumstances continue to change.

“We are seeing it already. Ahead of the return of schools this September, we were helping parents with children who were nervous and anxious about going back. We also helped deliver training to school staff to help them stay safe and were assisting them with their own emotional needs. GPs here have noticed an increased demand for mental health services, which can be expected not just with the anxiety of returning to school amid a pandemic, but also when people have not seen their peers for months and are suddenly back in the same environment. We have once again had to adapt to cope with the influx and we will have to continue to adjust to that.”

Leadership Today

Prime minister Boris Johnson has announced new national Covid-19 restrictions in the House of Commons, requiring hospitality venues to close by 10:00pm starting from Thursday and encouraging people to return to home working.

The measures apply in England, with the devolved administrations said to be taking similar steps.

The announcement came after the prime minister met with his cabinet on Tuesday morning, before chairing an emergency Cobra meeting which was attended by the leaders of all four constituent countries of the UK.

Johnson said: “We always knew that while we might have driven the virus into retreat, the prospect of a second wave was real,” adding that like other nations the UK had reached a "perilous" moment and “had to act” to reduce the R rate of the virus to one or below and curb the spread of the disease.

Along with the 10:00pm closing time, the hospitality sector will be entirely restricted to table service, with people banned from ordering from bars.

The rule of six has been extended to cover indoor sports and the return of spectators to professional sports events has once more been delayed indefinitely. Up to 30 people are still able to attend funerals, while attendees at weddings have now been reduced to no more than 15. Mask-wearing rules have also been extended to shop staff, as opposed to just shoppers.

The PM stressed that it was not a return to the lockdown seen back in spring, with schools, universities and Covid-secure workplaces remaining open and workers in key sectors who are unable to work from home still instructed to attend work. No additional national restrictions were placed on mixing households, excluding areas under tighter local lockdown measures.

Johnson said that the new restrictions could be in place for as long as six months.

The move comes after the government raised the coronavirus alert status to Level Four for the first-time since June, after it was recommended by the Joint Biosecurity Committee.

The new alert level means the prevalence of the virus is “high or rising exponentially” and social distancing must be enforced.

Johnson will reiterate today's message in the Commons in a televised address to the nation on Tuesday evening, informing individuals to work from home where it does not detrimentally affect firms, and instructing individuals to adhere to mask-wearing, regular hand-washing and social distancing.

Downing Street said on Tuesday morning that the televised announcement in the evening would be used to outline “further ways we will confront the virus”.

On Monday, the chief medical officer and chief scientific adviser warned that Covid-19 cases could rise to 50,000 per day by mid-October with 200 daily deaths by November if action is not taken.

Chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty suggested then that restrictions could be in place for a further six months and warned that “unnecessary links” between households had to be broken.

For now, a full two-week “circuit break” lockdown where everyone would be told to remain at home, as when the initial lockdown was called in March, is not on the agenda, and although the PM hopes that the action taken now will prevent further action later on, exercising the option in future has not been definitively ruled out.

But PM used his address in Parliament to caution against future “complacency”, saying that it would likely lead to further “drastic action” which could “jeopardise our futures”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that his party supported the new measures, but criticised the government for a failing testing system “just when we need it”.

SNP leader Ian Blackford called for the government to extend the furlough scheme beyond October 31 in line with the change in guidance, but the PM gave a non-committal response, saying that the government's objective "is to keep businesses going and the economy moving as much as we can".

The Telegraph reports that there is a split within Johnson’s cabinet on the severity of restrictions, with chancellor Rishi Sunak and business secretary Alok Sharma arguing the case for minimal restrictions to avoid further significant blows to the economy.

Meanwhile, Johnson is likely to face dissent from Conservative backbenchers concerned about the economic damage of prolonged restrictions, and 1922 Committee chair Sir Graham Brady has stated his intent to press on with his amendment to curb ministerial powers when the Coronavirus Act is reviewed in Parliament next week, which if passed would mean any new restrictions must be consented by MPs before being implemented.

Elsewhere, 32 leading scientists, academics and medical experts have written to the prime minister and asked him to “fundamentally reconsider” the government’s strategy.

The authors of the letter include University of Oxford professors Sunetra Gupta and Carl Heneghan, who argue that blanket restrictions will do more harm than good in the long-term.

On Monday, 4,368 more people tested positive for coronavirus, with 11 fatalities.

London mayor Sadiq Khan is understood to want local lockdown measures placed upon the capital and has proposed face coverings be made compulsory in all public spaces and for the maximum numbers of attendees at weddings and funerals in London to be reduced.

The prime minister's address in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon can be watched back here.

Leadership in History

On this day in 1761, the then Kingdom of Great Britain celebrated the coronation of a new monarch as George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz were crowned King and Queen.

In 1896, Queen Victoria II surpassed her grandfather King George III to become the longest reigning monarch in British history at the time. She has since been surpassed by Queen Elizabeth II, the current monarch, as of September 9, 2015.

On September 22, 1957, François Duvalier was elected president of Haiti on a populist and black nationalist platform. He began by exiling the majority of those who supported his political opponent Louis Déjoie and adopted a new constitution later that year. After then thwarting an attempted military coup in 1958, his term deteriorated into a totalitarian and despotic regime.

Photo by Marcin Nowak on Unsplash

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
September 22nd 2020, 12:12pm

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