A Big Thank You Birchwood United!

Birchwood United is a very apt phrase at the moment, as there are so many staff helping out in different service areas supporting staff teams that are short staffed either through sickness, expansion of a service, or in the case of Caithness, the start of a brand new service.

I have been delighted and amazed at the extent of the positive response of staff across the Company, particularly in our Inverness based services who have been so keen to help and work in other service areas; sharing their knowledge, experience and insight into Birchwood Highland and I am so grateful for others, who despite going through a difficult time at the moment, have stuck in there and continue to do everything they can to ensure that the support to service users is not compromised.

This readiness of staff to help was reinforced to me today, when Annabel, visiting Head office, advised me that she had a very heavy box in her car that she would need help with. I would not be able to do it she told me, suggesting that perhaps we could enlist the help of some other strong person. Okay I thought, I’m not so young or fit as I used to be, although, I’m still pretty strong, but perhaps I should just accept that statement, it has been a very busy few weeks after all. So, as we headed downstairs and towards the front door, I asked members of the Inverness team, who had just finished or were in the process of finishing their team meeting if any strong person would be able to help us get something out of Annabel’s car.

Well, every single one of the team of 7 who were sitting there, stood up and headed out to the car park, whereupon Marlene, yes, those of you who know the Inverness team will know Marlene, picked the box out of the car and said, “You call this heavy?” whilst the rest of them said “Is that all?” clearly expecting a huge load to help carry in. The box was escorted in by a different member of the team, whilst I advised them all that it was good to be outside; fresh air was good for them, and under healthy working lives it was good to see them all standing as sitting down too much is not good for you!.

What else could I do? The show of good will and willingness to help amongst every single person there was almost too much for me, but then again why was I so surprised on the back of everything else I have seen these past few weeks? And, I reminded myself, we are not the winners of the Highland Business Women’s best third sector organisation and team of the year award for nothing!

I felt so proud holding the trophies on behalf of everyone in Birchwood Highland last month at the Highland Business Women's Awards.  

It felt at that point that Birchwood Highland was on top of the world, with two awards, being the charity of the year and just having shown a fabulous film about our work and who we are, with people all around us saying how great the company is!  Naturally, sods law would have it that that kind of euphoria cannot last forever, and other things have since taken over,  but every time I look at the trophies in the Board room, I remember the feeling I had that night and the ongoing pride I feel for Birchwood Highland staff, volunteers and service users.  

I have also learnt from receiving feedback from the judges comments that we won by a significant majority of points in both our awards categories.  I would just like to emphasise once more that in our team award application we made it clear that our application was based on every single member of staff, volunteer and service user being part of our overall team and working together to achieve what we do.  In accepting our team award, I made it clear that I was accepting this great award on this basis.

Well done everyone, a fabulous achievement and a great end to last year!

I have always been aware that we have a fabulous lot of staff throughout Birchwood Highland, but in the past few weeks I have seen like no other time in my 12 years with Birchwood Highland just how united everyone stands when there are workload or other challenges needing people to work that bit harder together to achieve that bit more. So, thank you one and all in Birchwood Highland, you continue to amaze and inspire me. Have a good Easter!

- Emily Stokes

Social Enterprise

The Board of Directors have been discussing the possibility of developing (a) social enterprise(s) within Birchwood Highland recently. For over a year now, we have been discussing the idea of a cafe with a community group, with much work still to be done on that to progress, but in the meantime, we are keen to hear from service users and staff about any ideas or thoughts they have that might work in their local areas.  As such, before the summer, a couple of the Directors, David, our new Business Support Officer at Head Office and me (Emily) will be making arrangements to come and see everyone to gather your views and thoughts on this to see if there are any ideas we can start looking at further.

What's Been Happening

Two Major Wins at this Year's Highland Business Women's Awards

We are celebrating our 30th Anniversary in style with not one but two major wins at this year’s Highland Business Women awards this year, winning not only Third Sector Organisation of the Year for the second year in a row, but also scooping the coveted Team of the Year gong. This meant beating off stiff competition from fabulous charities such as Contact The Elderly, Creativity In Care, Children 1st and Gateway. The team award was hotly contested by last year's winners Macleod & MacCallum and Dolphin Spirit. What great company to keep in both categories!

 We are proud to be celebrating our 30th year delivering support to people across the region, and hugely grateful to Highland Business Women’s organisers and judges for choosing us as winners in this our special year. Obviously we are chuffed to bits with both awards, but Team of the Year is particularly special as the entry focused on exactly who makes up our team: the staff, volunteers and people who use our service. All are equally important in believing that recovery from mental illness is possible and all make up the Team of the Year.

On the night £4,000 was raised from Highland Business Women’s fabulous raffle and the hugely raucous ‘Hit or Miss’ game supported by the lovely people at Belladrum. All of the cash raised on the night will go to fund Birchwood Highland’s mental health awareness sessions in schools.

Birchwood Runners

A huge thank you and well done to Amy Barclay, James Proctor, Martin Chisholm, and Laurey Bell who ran the Half Marathon in Inverness in March, raising a fantastic £1,767.16! Here they are pictured before and after. If you'd like to support Birchwood Highland by running for us, take a look at our upcoming events

Jamie Ross from Invergordon is currently raising money for Birchwood Highland Easter Ross. Jamie will be running the Stirling marathon on the 21st of May. You can support Jamie's fundraising efforts through Just Giving


Caithness Service

  Some of our new colleagues in Caithness along with Audrey Irvine from BHRC.

Some of our new colleagues in Caithness along with Audrey Irvine from BHRC.

We are now running a service in Caithness which includes supporting individuals with mental health issues, dementia, autism and drug and alcohol. Keep an eye on our website for future updates. you can also view our leaflet on Housing Support in Caithness. 

Here's Audrey in the new Caithness office which will be furnished soon.



Let's Walk a Mile

Click here to visit the event page for Let's Walk a Mile. There is also a monthly walk led by Stephen Wiseman from Scottish Waterways Trust. Follow us on Facebook for updates on these events.

Black Isle Bike Ride

Join us for the annual Black Isle Bike Ride starting and finishing at the Free church in North Kessock. Come along from 11.30am for a 12pm start. This is a family friendly event, not a race!

If you'd like to take part please email pauline.burnett@birchwoodhighland.org.uk

Sponsor form

Route details

Ascot Adventures

Fancy a day at the races? Birchwood Highland, Marie Curie and Highland Business Women would like to invite you to Ascot Adventures at the Kingsmills Hotel, a fantastic day of racing and fundraising. Visit the event page here.

30th Anniversary Celebration

Please accept this as an invitation to all staff and volunteers to our 30th birthday party.  Please collect numbers of those who can attend at team level.

As everyone is aware, this is our 30th year, a big one for us and as such we have been asking the service user groups how they would like to mark the occasion.  Each has chosen a slightly different way, but the party idea definitely features in every plan. 

The first party to kick off our special year is being held in Inverness on Monday 29th May in Whin Park, where there will be a party in the park by the boating lake with music and food.  Service users are currently busy making their costumes, including hats for this party and they are using the old Poundstretchers shop in Inverness as their base for these workshops. 

Easter Ross have opted for a circus theme to their celebrations, with a parade through the High street onto the Natal Gardens where they are planning a family fun day with a fair, music and other shennanigans.  Workshops for their banners, costumes etc start on the 29th April.

And finally, Lochaber are planning a carnival theme, with big costumes planned (I have already had my wings measured!) and I look forward to the carnival on Tuesday 20th June.

Service users and any staff accompanying are welcome to attend any of the parties and are actively encouraged to join in in other areas.

Finally, staff and volunteers get their turn on Saturday 24th June, with our 80's themed disco at the Chieftain Hotel in Inverness.

Note that there are sessions for making celebration items like hats, wings, headdresses, bunting and mosaic art pieces throughout April and May at Pound-Stretchers by Creativity in Care open to all at Birchwood Highland! See the dates and more information here

Here are some photos of a recent workshop with Sarah and Veronica from Head Office getting measured for their costumes!

Ness Vegas

Fancy a bit of mid-summer fun? Ness Vegas is a brand new event for Inverness, bringing casino fun and great entertainment to the Inverness Highland Games! Visit the event page here.


Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival

Amidst all the different and exciting preparations for our anniversary celebrations we are also getting ready to present our work at this year’s edition of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. This year Birchwood Highland are leading the festival preparations on behalf of all SMHAFF Highland partners and we will want to make sure that the festival is more colourful and successful than ever.

A number of SMHAFF events are planned to take place throughout October, with the Opening Night planned for 5th October at the Bike Shed and a SMHAFF Highland Great Gathering Event at One Touch Theatre at Eden Court on 24th October.

Eden Court will make wall space available to us to present our artwork throughout October. This will include the commemorative mosaic the services will be working on directed by a professional mosaic artist. I will be in touch with the service managers soon with more information about this.

The exhibition will also include some of the carnival artefacts now being made at workshops with Karrie Marshall and Creativity in Care. As some of these items are going to be quite big, we might need to present photographs instead. After being exhibited at Eden Court, the artwork will then be moved to the Highland Council Chamber corridors.

As every year, also this year SHMAFF Highland will include a photography and a writing competition. This year participants will be invited to submit work linking in with the quote from Ned Vizzinni’s novel It’s Kind of a Funny Story:  “Dreams are only dreams until you wake up and make them real.” You might remember that the film based on this novel was selected by Birchwood Highland for our SMHAFF film night at Eden Court last year. It proved to be a real hit and apart from this year photo and writing competition being based on the novel, the book has also been chosen by Highland reading clubs as the book to be read and discussed in October as part of the festival.

We will be hosting a film night at Eden Court again this year and if you have any ideas of a film to choose for the night, please get in touch with me.

Rachael and Pauline are also working on our very own film to be shown at different festival events so please don’t be surprised if you are approached with a request to be part of it. Say ‘yes’ and be part of our great festival success this year too!

If you have any questions or ideas, get in touch with me on my email: paulina.duncan@birchwoodhighland.org.uk

- Paulina Duncan


Your Views Matter!

Birchwood Highland Young People Forum met once again in February this year. The Forum is an advisory group of staff and volunteers working with Birchwood Highland aged 28 and younger. The forum looks at different aspects of our organisation and thinks what we could do more to attract and retain young people. From the organisation’s point of view, it’s important that we attract young talent with new ideas and new ways of looking at things. It is also important that young people stay with us and grow and progress within the organisation contributing to its success. Our commitment to young people in the organisation has been additionally strengthened by the Investors in Young People accreditation we achieved in March last year.  

Some of the issues the Forum has looked at so far include the way we advertise our vacancies, our job application form as well as other elements of recruitment. We also discussed our presence in social media and progression planning. All ideas and suggestions brought up at our biannual meetings are compiled into a report and presented to the management team for discussion. Many of the suggestions of the Young People Forum have been already implemented and some are being discussed to find the best way of their implementation.

The next forum meeting will take place in August and will look at the Investors in People Heat Map to think how to get us prepared for our next Investors in People assessment. The IIP framework has changed this year and we will be trying to get a higher level of accreditation this time, so putting our heads together will be really important to make sure we achieve it.

Ensuring the organisation is a good, healthy and friendly place to work is the responsibility not only of the managers but of all of us. Therefore it’s key that everyone contributes by communicating their views on how to make things better. The Young People Forum is one of a number of different communication channels we have in the organisation. There are many other ways of sharing your thoughts and ideas, in your supervision sessions, team meetings, at other forums you or a representative from your team may attend, such as the support worker’s forum, health & safety committee, healthy working lives committee, medication management meetings etc. or through talking to any of the managers in Birchwood Highland. Your ideas and your views are important and welcomed.


Oscar's New Friend

Oscar with Lauren Bell's little boy, Angus. He's also been taking part in some creative writing skills!

Social Enterprise Inverness High School

The "Growing Your Skills, Widening Your Horizons" programme was run in conjunction with Inverness High School and Social Enterprise Academy. Young people completed written and practical exercises to achieve the award. All the young people stayed the course, attending and participating over six weeks to complete their portfolio. Young people talked about having gained confidence, team work skills, and gaining skills that would directly help with employment interviews. Teachers and the tutor confirmed this and referred to seeing improved social and communication skills, and increased confidence with the group gelling well. The young people have indicated that they wish to continue their involvement with Birchwood Highland and we will be meeting up again after the holidays to talk about specifics. Inverness High School and Social Enterprise Academy are also happy to work with us again next academic year and we will be looking at opportunities for this. 

Entertaining Guests at the Recovery Centre

We had a few students visiting the Recovery Centre all the way from Belgium recently. Here they are enjoying some healthy foods and trying a little Irn Bru as a treat. 

A Trip to Wick

Naomi and I went to Wick on 31st March to help with staff inductions.  It was great to meet Sophie, Rachelle and Audrey, some of our new staff in Caithness.

This was my first time driving to Wick and now I know why everyone was warning me about  the notorious Berriedale Braes!  This picture does not do them justice, they are very steep and Naomi got a bit of a fright!

- Veronica Macleman

Rehearsals Underway

Back in March, the Head Office team managed to take a lunch break one week to start their rehearsals for the 'performance' at Birchwood Highland's 30th anniversary staff party on Saturday 24th June. As we've mentioned before, we are hoping that teams might be able to do a performance around the 80's theme as we used to for the old staff awards ceremonies.

Things have been a bit busy since and we've not managed a further rehearsal, but we'll get back to it, I am sure...  In the meantime, it will be going in our Healthy Working Lives portfolio.


Winter Photography

Lloyd Mclean has built up a good collection of photographs during his support sessions at Birchwood Highland. Lloyd has great skills in photography, here are some pictures that Lloyd took over the winter months. In February the Easter Ross service users have started back at the Football Buddies going to watch the Ross County home matches. Lloyd Mclean and John Mcmillan had both missed going to the games over the winter as Football buddies stops for the winter months. They are both delighted to be going back to the football games again.

- Heather Nic, Support Worker


Well Done Peter!

Well done to Peter MacDonald who has worked very hard and successfully stopped smoking.  Here is his inspirational story;

“Just a wee story about stopping smoking.  I stopped after my Dad died on 29th September 2016, this would have been his 81st Birthday.  I went to see the Smoking Cessation Nurse to ask for support.  I started using patches to help me cope with the withdrawal symptoms.  I decided to start a jar to put the money in as I am not good at saving. 

Anyway, my Partner Maria, who is from Kenya, asked me if I could get time off work to go to Kenya with her.  I asked June for the annual leave and she kindly said OK.  Then I thought Mmmmm money to pay for this.  I approached my jar with trepidation to see if this could help toward the cost of my holiday.  I got the tin opened and hoped there would be enough.  WOW! To my surprise there was over £800.00 in it.  I went straight to the Travel Agent, cost for flight £442.00, passport £82.00.  That left £300.00 change which I am putting toward spending money. 

I leave on 10th June for a very special holiday and this is all thanks to a kind Smoking Cessation Nurse, who I see regularly and a wee bit of determination. 

Honestly, it’s okay after the first four days with the Patches.  Go on, give it a bash! I hope elephants and lions like Support Workers! I'll send you a postcard.

God bless

Peter MacDonald"


Happy Birthday Joan

Joan McEwan from Birchwood Highland Easter Ross celebrated her 60th birthday recently.  We had a tea party for her which was well attended by all her friends at Birchwood. Happy Birthday, Joan!


Work is well underway in developing a new IT system for Birchwood Highland

Work is well underway in developing a new IT system for Birchwood Highland.

The work is being overseen by David Brookfield, the Business Support Officer based at Inverness Head Office supported by Sarah Smith who many of you will know. David has agreed a new support contract with SFG, an Inverness based company. In future any problems that you have with your computer can be directed to the team of Andy, Shane, Stewart and Rob at SFG on 01463 630300 who will be happy to help sort out your problems. You can of course always speak to David or Sarah at Head Office about any issues relating to your IT.  

So far a new broadband line has been installed in the Inverness head office which has improved the internet speeds there. Many of the problems that users were experiencing in Inverness have been either resolved or identified with a view to repairing. A new server has also been purchased which is currently being re-configured and an improved back up system has also been set up in Inverness. David and SFG will be visiting each of the Community teams and the Recovery Centre to establish the current set up and to speak to the teams so that we can establish what structure of files and folders will work best for each of us. 

Its hoped that the new system will be a much easier system to use and far more secure.

A draft structure for the files and folders is shown below:


Childcare Vouchers

For those of you that are not aware, Birchwood Highland is a member of the Salary Exchange Childcare Vouchers Scheme.  The Childcare Vouchers Scheme is available to all permanent staff members who have successfully completed their probationary period who are the parent or legal guardian of at least one child aged 0 to 16 years.  Childcare Vouchers can be used to pay for all types of registered childcare including childminders, nurseries, au pairs, crèches, playgroups, out of school clubs, holiday schemes, qualifying childcare provided by schools, activity clubs and summer clubs.  Staff members who are in receipt of Child Tax Credits do not qualify for this scheme.  This scheme is third party funded and payments are made in the form of wage deductions. 

Any staff member who is interested in joining the scheme can do so by accessing the website: www.salary-extras.co.uk.  User Name: birchwood  Password: benefits. 

For more information please contact Lisa at Head Office.

Birchwood Babes


Congratulations to Lauren Bell, Business Support Officer, Community Services and her partner Scott on the arrival of their little girl, Amber. Also, congratulations to Lorraine Davidson on the arrival of her grandson Charlie a week before and belated congratulations to Jason Carr and his partner for the arrival of their first son!

Welcome Emily!

Emily Murdoch joined the staff team at Easter Ross in November 2016.

Emily worked in childcare before joining the Birchwood Highland team and is really enjoying the change of job.

Welcome to to the team, Emily (pictured right).



Training Dates

  A photo of our recent Health & Safety Training

A photo of our recent Health & Safety Training

Moving and Handling: 21st April at Inshes Church

WRAP: 25th April and 2nd May at Inshes Church

Behaviour that Challenges Refresher: 9th May

Adult Support and Protection: 9th May in Fort William

Adult Support and Protection: 10th May in Invergordon

Adult Support and Protection: 10th May in Inverness

SafeTALK: 15th May in Inverness

Adult Support and Protection: 16th May in Invergordon

Adult Support and Protection: 23rd May in Inverness

If any staff would like to attend any courses, please contact your line manager. For full details, see the training calendar on SharePoint.

HR Updates

We'd like to wish a fond farewell to:

Anne Dickinson – Staff Nurse, Recovery Centre

Andrew Greig – Support Worker, Inverness

Colette Allen – Relief Support Worker, Recovery Centre

Gemma Duncan – Support Worker, Lochaber

Scot Young – Support Worker, Lochaber

Shona MacGillivray – Interim Manager, Head Office

Trevor Colbourne - Director

Yvonne Gilchrist- Support Worker, Recovery Centre

And a warm welcome to:

David Brookfield – Business Support Officer, Head Office

Ann Moffat – Relief Support Worker, Lochaber

Andrea Herrmann – Support Worker, Lochaber

Michael Brown – Support Worker, Lochaber

Jennifer Sorbie – Relief Support Worker, Recovery Centre

Sophie-Lee Martin – Relief Support Worker, Recovery Centre

Caitlin Prentice – Support Worker, Recovery Centre

Cheryl Williams – Team Administrator, Recovery Centre

Melanie Livings – Staff Nurse, Recovery Centre

Helen Mole – Relief Support Worker, Easter Ross

Lorraine Hunter – Support Worker, Inverness

Marie Keenan – Business Support Officer, Inverness

Julie Calder – Team Manager, Caithness

Rachelle Macnab – Senior Practitioner, Caithness

Sophie Ruby – Senior Practitioner, Caithness

Audrey Macnab – Support Worker, Caithness

Chloe Sinclair – Support Worker, Caithness

Updated Policies

Social Media Policy

Remote Support Service Policy

Petty Cash ISF Policy

Research Governance Policy

Display screen equipment policy

Fire safety Policy

Mobile Phone Policy

Driving at Work Policy

Nutritional Guidelines

Substance Misuse Policy

See you in Summer!

In the meantime, feel free to follow along on our social media channels.