Chief Executive, Emily Stokes

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Hello everyone, hoping this newsletter finds you well.

February might be a short calendar month but we have still managed to cram a lot in to this newsletter; from Burns Suppers to big anniversaries, there's a lot of cause for celebration this month. 

It's great to see some snippets from the Lochaber Service User Group's newsletter in this staff newsletter and it looks as though the Lochaber team have been extremely busy since the beginning of the year so well done all involved for your hard work and enthusiasm! In recognition of how far the team have expanded over the past year, we are hoping that work will commence shortly on making the office slightly bigger and easier to work in for the staff team in Fort William.

Work continues both on the shop and the office in Invergordon and hopefully we will be in a position to start setting out the stock in the newly refurbished shop area within the next few weeks. Huge thanks to everyone who has donated things for this –and we hope that everyone will get an opportunity to come and browse around the shop once opened.  A huge amount of time and effort has also been invested in getting the new office for the team ready – a few delays with planning and building control have put our timescales back shortly, but huge progress has been made and we will hopefully have a positive update for the next newsletter.

Finally, we couldn't possibly let February slip by without us mentioning a wonderful achievement within our staff team.  Celebrating 30 years of working with Birchwood Highland this month, Liz Edgar has been a dedicated employee for almost as long as Birchwood Highland has been in existence!  Liz - thank you for your significant contribution to the Company over the last three decades.  I'm sure you'll have seen many changes in that time but it's testament to your strength of character that you've stuck by us all that time!  You are truly amazing! And we hope to officially celebrate with you and Wendy who is approaching her 20th year in April, next month.

Before then, we will be looking at 10 years since the Recovery Centre was officially opened as a new modern residential recovery centre – with a tea party to be held to mark this. 

Thanks to everyone for a great start to 2018.

Best wishes,

Company News

Updates and developments

Year of Young People

2018 is the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People – an opportunity to celebrate the amazing young personalities, talents, and achievers that make up Scotland.  We'll be keeping this in mind throughout the year and will be attending a number of events to encourage young people into careers in social care.

Linda Birnie and Naomi Lee from Head Office attended the Glenurquhart High School careers fayre on Wednesday 14th February.  A fantastic event; well organised and informative and great to speak to so many enthusiastic young people.  Thanks for having us!

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Laughter with Linda

Thanks to Linda Birnie for hosting a fun afternoon of laughter yoga for members of the Head Office and Recovery Centre teams. Laughter is a fantastic way to relax your muscles, ease your stress levels and improve your mood.  You could say that laughter really is the best medicine!  



Màiri and Mel from Head Office attended the Healthy Happy You event at Inverness College UHI last week.  The event was part of UHI's wider wellbeing week, designed to encourage and promote positive wellbeing amongst students and staff.


60 Second Interview

Quick fire questions

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Name:  Nadine Rodgers

Job Title:  Health Improvement Support Worker

Joined Birchwood Highland:  August 2014

Based at:  Birchwood Highland Recovery Centre

Q. What was your previous role? 
A. My previous role was as a support worker with Birchwood Highland, but prior to that, I was a support worker in a dementia unit called Memory Lane.  My background is in palliative care and I've worked in nursing homes in the past, having started my career in the care sector at age 16. 

Q. Are you originally from Inverness? 
A. I am, I grew up here and attended Millburn Academy although I have lived and worked in various parts of the UK including Edinburgh and North Yorkshire.  

Q. If you were stuck in a lift, who would you like to be stuck with?
A. It's too hard to pick just one person!  Peter Kay is hilarious so he would at least keep me entertained but I would also quite like Ed Sheeran to be there because he could sing to me.  He comes across as being really down to earth and I could listen to his music all day!

Q. What’s your favourite song from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s and 10s?

60s - Let It Be - The Beatles (Technically released in 1970 but they were a classic band of the 60s!)
70s - Waterloo - ABBA
80s - Material Girl - Madonna
90s - She's Electric - Oasis
00s - Where is the Love? - Black Eyed Peas (My son, Jack, was born in 2003 so it's really special to me)
10s - Castle on the Hill -  Ed Sheeran 

Service updates

The latest from Birchwood Highland's services


Thanks to the Lochaber Service User Group for sharing this with us through their own newsletter:

Advocacy Highland

We had a visit from Val and Rachel from Advocacy Highland. They showed us a video on their computer.

We are all entitled to an Independent Advocate. Advocacy Highland is about speaking up for people, taking their side, helping people to express their views and have their voice heard. Advocacy Highland helps people to get their voice heard and understand what is said.

They tend to have a conversation with you before your meeting to discuss what is going to be said. You cannot always get the outcome you want, but you will be heard.


Burns Lunch

We had our annual Burns lunch on Thursday 25 January in the Common Room at Meall na Mara. Plenty haggis, neeps and tatties to be had! John B did an “Ode to the mouse,” this year, as well as the “Selkirk Grace”. All those who attended enjoyed the meal. Thank you to the staff for the cooking.


We managed to raise £859.86 (including an anonymous £100 donation – thank you very much) for our bagpack in Morrison’s in December. Thank you to all who took part. This will help to fund a lot of our activities throughout the year.



Staff and service users in Easter Ross enjoyed a Burns lunch on the 26th of January at the Crazy Horse Coffee Shop in Invergordon.  Steve Jackson read the address to the haggis, which you can read below!

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,  
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race! 
Aboon them a' ye tak your place, 
Painch, tripe, or thairm: 

Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm. 

The groaning trencher there ye fill, 
Your hurdies like a distant hill, 
Your pin wad help to mend a mill 

In time o need, 
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead. 

His knife see rustic Labour dight, 
An cut you up wi ready slight, 

Trenching your gushing entrails bright, 
Like onie ditch; 
And then, O what a glorious sight, 
Warm-reekin, rich! 


John in Easter Ross has been writing different notes each day to help inspire and motivate him - have a read of these wonderful notes below.

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Read All About It!

Birchwood Highland in the media

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Classic performance showcases Burns

Inverness Courier



Comic and chef to boost charity cause

Inverness Courier



Funding boost for Birchwood

Executive Magazine

February 2018


Fundraising  //  Activities  //  Workshops

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The Recovery Centre celebrates its 10th anniversary in March so we're having an afternoon tea party to celebrate!  To make sure there's enough cake to go round, we would be grateful if you could confirm your attendance by emailing info@birchwoodhighland.org.uk by Friday 9th March.  

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Dinner with the Stars

This year’s event will take place in the rustic surroundings of Bogbain Farm, Inverness, on Friday 20th April.  Kicking off at 6.30pm, the evening will include a welcome drink on arrival, a 3 course meal prepared by our guest chef and a selection of local chefs, as well as a Q&A session with Hardeep.  We'll finish up in true Highland style with a ceilidh dance hosted by Bruce MacGregor and friends!

Tickets are priced at £60pp, however, we’re pleased to offer Birchwood Highland staff tickets at a reduced rate of just £50pp.  To purchase tickets at staff rate, please contact Head Office directly. 

Hardeep is also hosting two other special events on our behalf:

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Spice Masterclass with Hardeep Singh Kohli

Stir your senses at this spice masterclass at the Royal Highland Hotel. 

In conversation with spice maestro Hardeep Singh Kohli, you can touch, taste and smell your way through the principles of cooking with Indian herbs and spices, and delve into new depths of flavour.

Tickets £25pp and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

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Private Dining Experience with Hardeep Singh Kohli

Get up close and personal with Hardeep Singh Kohli (and just 15 other foodies!) at this intimate dining experience. Includes 7 course menu with wine, at a top-secret location in a Highland home. 

Tickets £135pp, including return transport from Inverness city centre. 


Employee bulletin

Childcare Vouchers

HMRC have confirmed that childcare vouchers will no longer be open to new starters from April 2018.  Although there was a debate in Parliament in January, nothing so far suggests that the closure date will extend beyond this date so we must assume the voucher scheme will close as of the new tax year.  Childcare vouchers will still be available to staff who are in the voucher scheme in April.  HMRC have provided some clarity around this and they say: 

You (the employee) can keep getting vouchers if you’ve joined a scheme and get your first voucher by 5 April 2018, as long as:
•   You stay with the same employer and they continue to run the scheme
•  You don’t take an unpaid career break of longer than a year

This means that anyone wishing to be in the scheme will need to receive childcare vouchers in their last payday BEFORE the new tax year.  If an you have received childcare vouchers at any time in a previous 12 month period within your scheme, you will be considered an eligible member of the childcare voucher scheme.

If you need any further information please contact Lisa Ross at Head Office.


Technology Scheme

We will be opening up our Technology Scheme within the next few weeks and there are some changes to this scheme.  A Technology Gift Card is given to staff once their application has been approved for them to use within Curry’s PC World which can then be used to purchase any item within Curry’s and PC World.  This scheme will be available to all staff who have passed their probationary period and have a permanent contract. 

Business Security and Best Practices

We are constantly looking for ways to improve our IT security.  There are plenty of ways to strengthen our security by purchasing high end networking hardware, and reporting software – all which can be very expensive.  However there are easy ways to protect our business at no additional cost. It just consists of awareness raising, documentation, procedures and best practices.  It does require change but we think it’s well worth the effort, and can prevent security breaches or data loss. Please take some time to have a look, and hopefully see the benefits of creating a secure environment. 


Weak passwords are one of the most vulnerable access points for a business.  There are many ways that they can be made more secure: 

  1. Passwords should be complex - using at least 8 characters with uppercase, lowercase and symbols. 8 characters can sound a lot, but as an example, consider the following password: My-cat-is-called-Jess! This would be easy to remember, but has 21 characters, 2 capitals and 5 symbols. Almost impossible to hack, but easy to remember.
  2. Passwords should never be shared.
  3. There is never a need for anyone to know another person's password. It is not uncommon for management to collate passwords of staff in case they need access to an account if a member of staff is absent. This is unnecessary and a potential security breach. If management need access to an individual email account or data files, then Head Office or SFG can change permissions to allow this. This is much more secure and protects the staff.
  4. There is now evidence that changing passwords regularly is not required. If users have a secure password, then opinions from the cyber security companies suggest that this is sufficient. Changing passwords regularly often leads to passwords being written down or shared, so this is now discouraged.
  5. Passwords should never be stored in text files on a computer. 

To put this into perspective, many users have very short, and easy to hack passwords (like password1 or Welcome1 for example). We have no access to users’ passwords, so we have no way of checking who has a strong password and who hasn’t, so it’s down to you. 

Email is another vulnerable area for a business. Scam and virus emails are very often sent, and frequently catch out users who don’t take basic precautions. Sending emails with confidential information can also breach GDPR requirements.

  1. Emails are insecure - as soon as you send an email, it can be intercepted by a third party. You can send an email to a colleague in the same room and it can go half way round the world in seconds before it reaches their mailbox.
  2. Emails should NEVER include personal information, credit card details, etc in the body of the email If email must include personal details, then additional protection must be considered, such as encrypted email, or zipping up files with a secure password. There are secure websites  available, where you can upload files, and the recipient downloads the files. 
  3. Emails are well known for harbouring viruses or malware. Your virus checker and spam filters will pick up a lot of them, but not all so please be careful when opening emails and ensure you know where or who they came from.  However, all emails should be considered at risk of containing a virus. Just because an email looks as if it came from a reputable source, doesn’t mean that it’s genuine, or that the email hasn’t been compromised so be careful when opening emails.
  4. Recently Finance staff in many organisations have been specifically targeted with spoof emails from senior management or spoof suppliers asking them to pay an invoice straight away. Therefore it is important that the Head Office team and anyone else that authorizes invoice payments are particularly aware of this. 
  5. Most business email systems have spam and virus filters incorporated, as well as the capability of monitoring and backing up your email correspondence. Because of this, we strongly recommend that personal emails are not opened in the workplace, as they bypass all checks and security that the business emails put in place. 

File Sharing
Most of our data is stored on a server or a dedicated network device or SharePoint for example. Even so, we are aware that on a daily basis, staff are saving files to their desktop and My Documents. These areas are not backed up, and so important data can be lost in cases of hardware failure. Please do not save or store files on the desktop or in My Documents. Save them to the Z drive (server) or the U drive (your own personal files on the server) or the service file in Sharepoint. 

Procedures & Policies
There are policies and procedures on Sharedrive to help you understand acceptable and unacceptable practices. There are 3 main policies that should be considered: 

  1. Internet and Email Policy - This policy sets out best practice when using company email and internet services. It sets out the need for confidentiality, integrity and availability of the internet and email systems and establishes both company and user responsibilities.
  2. Information and Technology Policy  - This document sets out the Information Technology (IT) Policy for the protection of our information systems, security, equipment and file storage.
  3. Data Security Policy - During employment with the business, personal data will come into staff knowledge, possession or control. In relation to such personal data (excluding personal data contained in personal communications) whether you are working within the business premises or working remotely staff must adhere to conditions listed within this policy. 


Staff Achievements

Happy anniversary, Liz!
A huge big congratulations to our very own Liz Edgar, who celebrates 30 years of working with Birchwood Highland this month! 

30 years is a huge milestone and we can't thank you enough for all your hard work over the years, Liz.  We really hope you don't mind but we wanted to share some of your 'best bits' throughout the years...

Big congratulations also go to  Jayne Geddes at ISS who passed her SVQ 3 in Health and Social Care at the end of January.

Starters and Leavers

A warm welcome to:

Owen Hope – Relief Support Worker at the Recovery Centre

Kate Kay – Support Worker at the Recovery Centre

Claire Horsefield – Support Worker at Easter Ross

Lyn Rutter – Administrator at the Recovery Centre

Dr Clare Daly - Project Manager at Aspiring Communities


A fond farewell to:

Jennifer Nicolson in Caithness.




Mental Health First Aid – 1st and 8th March in Inverness

Behaviour that Challenges – 6th March in Inverness

WRAP – 6th and 13th March in Invergordon

Laughter Yoga – 14th March in Inverness

Mental Health First Aid – 15th and 16th March in Inverness

Food Hygiene – 28th March in Inverness

Health and Safety – 30th March in Inverness


Further details on all training can be found on the Training Calendar on SharePoint.