Happy Easter everyone. March has been an amazing month so far for Birchwood Highland, as indeed has the year 2016 to date, with many more highlights planned and anticipated along the way.

Already, we have celebrated two 20th anniversaries.  Lynn Keith, Team Manager at Easter Ross has been working with Birchwood Highland and in Easter Ross all these years and had a local celebration with staff and service users and a further congratulations cake at the February Management Team Meeting. An amazing achievement and Lynn will have seen much move on and change in her time both at Easter Ross and across the organisation as a whole.

 In our 20th year of having our Head Office based at 5 Wells Street, we bid goodbye to the old office and along with the Inverness support service, Head Office moved down the road to Tomnahurich Street in February.  The move to the new premises has been a fantastic boost to staff morale, not that there appeared to be a problem before, but it’s amazing what more light, having direct access to a sink (in the case of Inverness) and a much more openly spacious environment can do to help the feel good factor.  ISS staff were literally dancing downstairs in the first few weeks in the hugely improved space allocated to the team and it’s great to have the full Head office team under one roof for the first time in a year.  Personally, having a desk and an actual PC screen to look at rather than a laptop was a huge plus for me!  A celebration with service users a few weeks in was a wonderful way to officially open the new office accommodation. In fact the only downside identified has been the closer proximity to the bakery. We take healthy working lives seriously!

Roll on to March and we welcomed three new Directors to our Board, Val Jeffrey, Stuart Caddell and Leslie Foale who has rejoined the Board having moved back from the States. The new Directors hope to get out and about visiting services in the next few months. 

Our achievements starting rolling in when following an intensive 3 day unannounced Care Inspection we retained all our sixes across all our Community Services and literally days later with a further new Inspector achieved the same following a further unannounced inspection at the Recovery Centre.

This fantastic news was rapidly followed by retaining our Healthy Working Lives Gold Award following a review, winning the Best Third Sector Organisation 2016 Award at the Highland Business Women’s Club Award – I can hardly keep up myself – and then, just before the Easter weekend, we heard that we have gained our Investors in Young People Accreditation! Really, what a month!

So, what have the next few months got in store for us?

We have some great fundraising events coming up, predominantly in May – we hope that everyone will celebrate mental health awareness week in May and in particular will get behind the Mad May Mile event on Sunday 15th May with work colleagues and/or family and friends. We have a major international conference that we have led on and co-ordinated on the 26th May around working EU migrants and mental health and the same evening the launch of the celt collection, a project BHRC service users have been working on with staff at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.  

On the young person’s side of things, we are currently working with a school in Grantown-on-Spey around mental health conversations between parents and children and hope that out of this we will have a publication to share wider. We also await the outcome of bids for work we hope to do after the Summer with the local Secondary schools. In the meantime, we have been approached by a number of schools to come and do some mental health awareness raising with their pupils.

In the early summer we hope to launch a pilot of a new remote support service in Lochaber and Easter Ross using technology to help support people who we cannot reach as easily geographically.  We will also be at Belladrum again this summer, this time with our giant Birchwood heart, in tune with our fundraising theme of Highland Hearts and Minds.

Just a glimpse of things to come in the following months.  In the meantime, I’m also glad to report that the Board of Directors has agreed pay awards from April 2016 onwards and each member of staff will receive a letter from me within the next few weeks outlining what this will mean for you personally.  In the meantime, a very happy Easter to everyone and huge congratulations on our wonderful recent achievements.

Emily Stokes, Chief Executive


Best Third Sector Organisation & Top Marks from the Care Inspectorate

Beating off stiff competition, Birchwood Highland impressed the judges with its innovation and creativity and effective engagement with service users to scoop the coveted award at the ceremony which was hosted by Nicky Marr at the New Drumossie Hotel. It's an amazing achievement to be recognised in this way in the business community. The award came at the end of a busy week for Birchwood Highland. Staff and service users were already celebrating after all of the services had been given a fantastic vote of confidence by the Care Inspectorate. After a three day inspection of the Inverness Support Service, the Lochaber Support Service and the Easter Ross Support Service, the Care Inspectorate awarded all three services the top rating ‘Excellent’.  Just three days later the same grade was awarded to Birchwood Highland’s Recovery Centre! 

The Care Inspectorate look at a number of areas including the quality of care and support, the environment, staffing, management and leadership, so to achieve an assessment of 6, the top grade possible, is a fantastic achievement for all of our staff. More importantly it illustrates the fact that we are giving the excellent care and support to the people who use our services. We’re very proud to have been given these grades and to have retained them year after year – it’s a massive achievement.

A New Home for Head Office & ISS

The new premises on Tomnahurich Street is a hit with staff! Above are some photos from the opening party by Lauren Bell and here are some thoughts from staff:

“It’s a friendly atmosphere, nice to have everyone together and staff morale is better”

“From a fundraising point of view, good to have more people to pounce on every day” – (this certainly seems to be working with 3 Head office staff, plus one Head Office volunteer signed up to the trek next year!)

“Delighted, lighter, brighter, and better.  Feels much more spacious as everything is more open”.


Emily's Side Kick

Oscar, Emily's new puppy, has been mingling with staff and service users lately and making friends all around Birchwood Highland. We'd ask you to come and say hello, but he has his own diary now so you may have too book an appointment!

A Day in the Life

Read about a day in the life of Deputy Chief Executive, Annabel Mowat, in this fantastic article in the Press and Journal. 

Birchwood Highland at the Museum

Inverness Art Museum and Art Gallery are currently working with Birchwood Highland service users in collaboration with Poet John Glenday and Artist Eleanor White to create an exhibition of new works inspired by the amazing Celts Reflections Tour coming to IMAG from National Museums Scotland in May. This is another project that highlights the importance of creativity and art in healing and connecting. Follow along on their Facebook page.

We have just completed Week Three of our Transitions: Reflections Project, preparing an exhibition of new artworks to be displayed alongside the Celts Reflections tour coming to IMAG from National Museums Scotland, this May. Thanks to our partners at Birchwood Highland for all their hard work.
— Inverness Museum & Art Gallery

Investors In Young People

Maria Baxter, one of our IIYP assessors, recently confirmed that Birchwood Highland have now attained the IIYP accreditation which will be valid for three years. Well done to everyone involved for all their hard work and dedication. Here are a few benefits to IIYP accreditation:

  • Recognition can help  attract Young People. Young People seeking employment recognise IIYP as the mark of an organisation that welcomes and supports young employees
  • Accreditation recognises effective approaches to recruiting, developing and retaining Young People
  • IIYP helps ensure we are harnessing talents and skills of Young People to contribute to organisational success
  • IIYP can help prepare our talent pipeline to address current and future skills gaps
  • IIYP highlights opportunities for improvements which can be made to workplace practices
  • IIYP support raises your awareness of the support available to employers
  • Using IIYP provides boost in morale to existing staff

The Trek of a Lifetime

Our Trek In The Footsteps Of The Dalai Lama fundraising trip has been very popular with many eager participants already signed up to take on the Himalayas next April. To whet the appetite of our trekkers – and tempt anyone who hasn’t booked their place yet! – here’s a taster of what’s in store for us… 

The deadline for entrants is April 30th, so there’s still time to come and join us. For a full itinerary of the trip email Pauline.burnett@birchwoodhighland.org.uk.

Mad May Mile

Could you do a mile in the craziest costume or daftest way possible? Come and join us to help stamp out the stigma of mental ill health, raise funds to aid our vital work – and have fun! Want to complete the course dressed as a fairy? Grab a group of friends and don gorilla outfits? Or even tie yourself to your colleagues for the day? You’re in! We’re looking for teams and individuals to come infancy dress or use teamwork to get round the mile and raise a smile! This event’s open to all ages and abilities - it costs £10 for adults and £5 for kids, but staff go free and we would love you to come and join us! 

Sign up to our Mad May Mile here.

Getting Fit & Muddy for Birchwood Highland

So far, support worker Andrew Grieg has recruited 4 people from birchwood Highland to take on the 10k Beast Race, an obstacle course in September that looks like an amazing experience. If you'd like to get involved with the team, contact Andrew  andrew.greig@birchwoodhighland.org.uk

Men at Work

It was drills at dawn when directors John and Steven gave up their day jobs and stepped up to the plate to construct the new cycle shelter at Head Office/ISS. In a busy week of drilling and banging - during which Head Office received a facelift with new windows and front door, the boardroom was painted and new kitchen flooring was delivered - the shelter took the crafty pair just a couple of hours and a few cups of coffee to make. The shelter will house the six cycles purchased after a £5,000 funding boost from the Postcode Community Trust, thanks to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

The windfall has enabled Birchwood Highland to set up a cycling scheme for staff and service users and purchase the bikes and safety equipment so now all staff can use the cycles to commute to work and use bikes to avoid traffic jams when nipping out to meetings. As part of our commitment to the Healthy Working Lives strategy, it provides us all with the healthy option - and it’s fun getting the wind in our hair! The bikes will also be used by service users for organised outings during the forthcoming year.

Speaking of healthy lifestyles, we have managed to retain our Healthy Working Lives Gold Award and would like to thank all staff for their commitments and participation in helping to maintain this.

Lynn Hits the Double Decade

Flowers and a celebration cake were welcome additions to a management team meeting this month, all to celebrate the sterling achievement of Lynn Keith. Team Manager at the Easter Ross service in Invergordon, Lynn’s been with Birchwood Highland for twenty years and is one of our longest-serving staff. Quite an achievement! Lynn has used her skill and expertise to manage her team – and all with her ever-present smile. Well done Lynn!

William Hill Scottish Cup

Service users Isobel and Michael got a visit from the ICTFC players with the William Hill Scottish Cup at one of their lunch clubs in Inverness.  They were delighted they got to hold the cup! 

HR, Training & Policy Updates

Starters and Leavers

We would like to wish a very warm welcome to the new staff who have recently joined Birchwood Highland!


Dorothy Dillon – Support Worker ISS
Rosie Deverell – Staff Nurse BHRC
Daniel Grant – Support Worker BHRC
Marianne Lee – Support Worker BHRC
Lorna Grant – Support Worker ERSS
Tracey Cook – Support Worker BHRC
Lauren Johnstone – Relief Staff Nurse BHRC
Lori Sutherland – Relief Support Worker BHRC
Davy Heinsius - Relief Support Worker BHRC
Lynne Main – Relief Staff Nurse BHRC
Margaret Young – Relief Support Worker ISS
Matthew Burgess – Relief Support Worker ISS
Amanda Hicks – Support Worker A2B
Elizabeth Wheeler – Relief Staff Nurse BHRC
Christina Raeburn – Support Worker A2B

Upcoming Training Dates for the Diary 

Food Hygiene – 4th April 9 am – 5 pm at Inshes Church
Behaviour that Challenges Refresher – 12th April 9:30 – 12:30 at the Highland Homeless Trust
Behaviour that Challenges – 14th April 9:30 – 5 pm at Inshes Church
Adult Support and Protection – 14th April 1:30 – 4:30 at Fort William Health Centre
Mental Health and Recovery – 18th April 9 am – 4:45 at Inshes Church
Adult Support and Protection – 21st April  9:30 – 12:30 at Isobel Rhind Centre, Invergordon
Food Hygiene Refresher – 29th April 3 pm – 6:45 at Inshes Church
WRAP training – 7th and 14th April 10 am – 4:30 at Inshes Church
WRAP training – 21st and 28th April 10 am – 4:30 at Inshes Church


ApproveD Policies

No Reply Policy

Protocolfor planning and supporting holidays or travel with Service Users

Medication Support and Administration Policy for Support Staff

Equality for Service Users

Equality for Staff

Communications and Consultation Policy

BBV Policy

Personal Planning and Review Policy

Working Hours (Working Time Regulations)

Safety of Staff Working Alone

Personal Alarm Policy

Food Safety Induction

Alcohol and Substance Misuse Policy for Community Services

See you in Summer!