Hello everyone,

Party in the Garden has just passed, signalling that we have already made it to half way through the calendar year and summer is with us.  Speaking for everyone at Head Office, but I’m sure applicable to all of us, we feel in need of a summer holiday given the whirlwind of activity that May brought over and above our day to day activities.  We enjoyed (!) dressing up as Jelly bellies and various items from the fruit bowl and loved seeing other costumes from the Mexicans to Woody, interesting things you can do with bubble wrap and an assortment of animal onesies in addition to our princess, footballer and we cannot forget the butchers!  The weather was not that supportive, but we expect that and encountered it again on our recent Saturday jaunt through Inverness town centre for Walk a mile. 

In between the Mile events, we also had a wonderful dinner at UHI and a very successful Migrants Conference which we co-ordinated and hosted and also an opening at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Last weekend we had a huge turn-out of staff, service users and volunteers at the Highland Cross event as we played our role in supporting the participants as one of the beneficiary charities this year, with a new sun lounge at the recovery centre being funded from this event to provide much needed additional social space for service users.

We have some great photos and films in this newsletter highlighting the above events, however, as always, I am only too aware that these are just a few of the many wonderful things that have been happening across the Company over the past few months. Some of these are covered, but many more will not be.  This leaves the question as to how we can start highlighting more of the really great work that we are doing across our frontline support services the recovery centre and all our community services and share some of our good practice a bit wider across the Company.   I would like to ask each service to consider sharing on a quarterly basis for a new section in our newsletter some examples of really positive work that we have been doing with service users or as a team which can highlight learning or information that others across the Company may be interested in.  In this way, we will be able to share some of our good practice with each other a bit more as this is an area that we do not currently promote in our newsletter, which is one of our main communications to our whole staff group.  As always, I am also open to other ideas on how we can achieve this in different ways too.

We have also been looking at our staff support policy recently and the additional benefits that we currently offer to staff as an organisation.  Some of you may have kindly participated in the short survey we sent around which looked at the salary extra benefits that we currently offer and whether you would use additional benefits if we paid for these packages. Whilst some staff felt they would, others felt that this would not be the best use of Company resources and were unlikely to use them anyway.  Given that money has become increasingly tight, with the priority being the funding of the recent pay awards, I feel that it would be helpful if more work was done with more staff from different services to look at a reward and recognition strategy for the organisation and what matters most for staff in terms of how they are recognised.   I need to add that the start point here would be to look at non-monetary support as we are not in a position through the funding we receive to consider financial reward incentives such as bonuses I am afraid.  

I would be very interested to hear ideas from staff and have a chance to discuss these in a wider forum or at individual team meetings from which I could pull together ideas from services and if you are interested or have ideas, please can you speak to your manager about this in the first instance.

So, happy summer everyone!

Emily Stokes, Chief Executive


Party in the Garden

We had a little rain, but it didn't stop us enjoying Party in the Garden at the Recovery Centre with stalls, live music from Douglas Scott, BBQ, and some relaxing activities in the chill out zone! Listen to some of the music played by Douglas on Facebook.  

Let's Walk a Mile

We took to the streets along with many supporters to Walk a Mile to raise awareness about mental ill health in the Highlands. Events like this let us have conversations and start the ball rolling on the subject of mental health and the stigma that can surround it. Changing attitudes can often start with something as simple as a smile, a wave, and a friendly conversation. We had many representatives from Highland organisations in attendance including Drew Hendry MP, HUG members, Partnerships for Wellbeing, service users, Birchwood Highland staff, volunteers and many others. 

As Chris Young of Let's Walk a Mile says the video - be prejudiced! Pre-judge that people will be lovely and you won't be disappointed. 

Migrants Matter

The Migrants Matter Symposium on the 26th of May brought together people who come into contact with migrants in their work to explore the role of stigma and self-stigma in preventing Highland migrants from seeking help when experiencing mental health issues and started to define potential solutions to help overcome the existing barriers to accessing mental health services by EU migrants. We'd like to thank all attendees for making the event so productive and enlightening! 

Our hashtag for the event on Twitter was #MMSymp2016. Click here to read some of the conversations online during and after the event. STV's Nicola McAlley stopped by to interview some attendees for a story that went out on STV.

Of course the conference couldn't have gone as well as it did without the help of Birchwood Highland staff and their hard work throughout the day making sure everything ran smoothly!

Celtic Reflections Exhibition

After Migrants Matter it was off to Inverness Museum and Art Gallery for the opening of  Transitions: Celts Reflections which is running from 24 May to 4 July in the Community Gallery & Room to Discover and features service user artwork alongside beautiful Celtic artefacts. The exhibition opening also featured an impressive performance by Drama students from the University of the Highlands and Islands exploring ideas around identity.

"Created by community curators from Birchwood Highland, together with IMAG, poet John Glenday and artist Eleanor White this exhibition of new artworks, creative writing and photography has been created as a response to the themes inspired by the Reflections on Celts spotlight tour from National Museums Scotland and the British Museum." -  Read more from Highlife Highland.

Mad May Mile

 Best dressed Mad May Milers who won a family ticket to Belladrum

Best dressed Mad May Milers who won a family ticket to Belladrum

We had our Mad May Mile on the 15th of May at Whin Park, bringing along staff, service users, and public supporters to get involved and walk a mile in the maddest costumes they could find! We aimed to raise some awareness about mental health as often stigma surrounding mental illness can be caused by a lack of understanding. With these events we hope to have a great time while battling mental health stigma, which can often be worse for people dealing with things like anxiety and depression than the conditions themselves.

With 1 in 4 people experiencing mental ill health, it's time to end stigma! Here's a video of the event with a special message from STV's Nicola McAlley at the end who came along early to walk the mile with her mum.

Below are some behind the scenes photos from before the Mad May Mile as staff  get ready to head for Whin Park.

Dinner with the Stars

Birchwood Highland is still reeling from the success of Thursday's inaugural Dinner With The Stars in May which raised over £11,000 for the charity! We would like to thank the wonderful staff and students at Inverness College UHI - especially Robbie Sheriffs - and, of course, our fabulous chefs who donated their time, skills and energy to create an amazing meal for the evening.

David Barnett from The Torridon stunned with his wonderful mackerel and smoked herring roe dish, Jamie Scott's beef dish was sublime - we will be hot-footing it to his fabulous new restaurant and rooms, The Newport Restaurant - and Mark Dickson of Bunchrew House Hotel ended on a very classy note with his showstopping dark chocolate pave! Bravo boys!

And a massive thank you to Elizabeth Brown of Capability Brown, who stepped in at the 11th hour to create a gorgeous vegetarian menu for us - brilliantly mixing foraged finds with amazing flavours. Our entertainment, by ever-funny host C.C. O'Hara, amazing songstress Eilidh Davies, amazing auctioneer Paul Spencer and Mr jig himself, Bruce MacGregor, was second to none!

Thank you to all of our proud sponsors for their amazing support and for letting their hair down on the night, too. We loved having you on Team Birchwood Highland!

Pauline Burnett, Fundraising Manager

Mad Hatters Tea Party

We had another Mad Hatters Tea Party recently at Head office which raised £68.40 for the charity, and a few smiles, We predict that the hats will get more and more extravagant - including Oscar's! Below is a photo from Invergordon's Tea Party.  These events ran to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 2016. What better way to celebrate! 

Highland Cross

Here's Annabel and her son, Neil, who finished Highland Cross for Birchwood Highland! For more photos, see our Facebook page.  The Highland Cross is a 50-mile duathlon (20 miles on foot, 30 miles on bike) traversing the spectacular Scottish Highlands coast to coast, west to east from Kintail through Glen Affric and Strathglass to Beauly.

We had a great turnout of staff, service users and volunteers and it was great to see so many people coming along and taking part. 

Upcoming Events

Birchwood at Belladrum

Belladrum festival's always a blast, but this year's event will be a biggie for Birchwood Highland as a very exciting 'happening' is planned which will put us at the heart of the weekend's events. Here's Joe Gibbs (Belladrum's owner) flanked by David Sanderson and Iain Kershaw from Easter Ross firm Serimax. Intriguing, eh? All will be revealed closer to the event... 

Pauline Burnett, Fundraising Manager

Bingo Night

Inverness Support Service's Andrea Morgan is trekking the Himalayas in April and has committed to raising money for Birchwood Highland. What better way of having fun and helping her reach her £3000 target than joining her at Cafe V8 for a prize bingo night?! It's on 31st July and is guaranteed to be a laugh! Call Andrea on 01463 241 009 if you'd like to come along.

Interested in trekking the Himalayas? Contact Pauline Burnett at Head Office. 

Andrew Jeffrey Runs the Edinburgh Half Marathon!

Congratulations and thank you to Andrew Jeffrey who completed the Edinburgh Half Marathon for Birchwood Highland. He raised a fantastic £413 for his efforts. Here he is looking very pleased!

If you think you could take on the Loch Ness Marathon in September this year for Birchwood, you can sign up and take of our charity runner places. Places are limited so email brian.vass@birchwoodhighland.org.uk if you'd like to take part. 

Charity Golf Day

Please note that our Charity Golf Day has been cancelled. Keep an eye on the intranet, website and social media for a potentially rescheduled date. later in the summer. 

Charity News

Glendoe Service User Holiday

Three of our Service Users from Glendoe Terrace, 24/7 supported accommodation, went on holiday with support from staff. Nik, Support Worker, summarises the holiday, ‘We went to Dornoch in May this year for 4 nights. The cottage we booked was lovely and had a swimming pool which we all enjoyed, especially Isabel. She loved having a paddle every day. We went to Grannys Heilan Hame in Embo a couple of the nights and played bingo and partied at the disco! We had a BBQ one evening and it poured with rain but didn't stop us. We went touring about the area and seen some lovely scenery! Great memories made and we can’t wait until the next holidays!!’

Lochaber Grow Well Project Update

Over the spring months Team Grow Well sprung into action and stood by their “flower beds”!

In addition to sowing seeds and potting up in preparation for the Annual Summer Sale of produce in the High Street there was a concerted effort to give the whole area in and around Meall na Mara a much needed face lift including painting the front gates and planting of flowers in the drive way.

Service users and staff built our new raised bed which has given the opportunity for our less able bodied members to take a more active part in the project. This is now complete and is a focal point in our courtyard. The back wall is adorned with our Mosaic Art Pictures, worked on over the winter months, and our new garden furniture purchased from our fundraising events are now in situ.

The courtyard has been transformed and is now a much used area for chillin’ out, get togethers’ and of course, our legendary BBQs.

Thanks to Team Grow Well for all the effort, hard work and enthusiasm much appreciated by all in Lochaber. Special thanks to our new in house handy man Scot for sharing his DIY skills and more importantly his tools and to Gemma for her commitment to oversee the completion of our mosaic art.

Over the coming year we plan to fundraise to purchase an awning for the courtyard, allowing folk to enjoy this area rain or shine!

Johnan Cameron, Team Manager at Lochaber

Youth Philanthropy Initiative

Here are the team from Nairn Academy after their presentation on Birchwood Highland for the Youth Philanthropy Initiative! They came in behind the team representing Women's Aid, so congratulations to them and thank you to the team for their hard work. 

Social Enterprise

A Social Enterprise Group is running with Awards For All funding to enable a group of young people to develop a Social Enterprise as an alternative means of learning, and an alternative route into developing skills and employment opportunities. We are supported in this venture by the Social Enterprise Academy who provide facilitation with this young person led process, and bring experience of successfully establishing social enterprises. The group is open and welcoming of new people joining, and we are still welcoming participants aged 16 to 25 and aim to do so on an ongoing basis. There this no charge, and light refreshments are provided. Training in leadership, and team work are part of the programme and participants can gain a qualification if they wish. Ideas so far are far ranging and imaginative, and I look forward to seeing these develop further. Please contact linda.birnie@birchwoodhighland.org.uk for further details and please pass on this opportunity for young people via your networks. 

Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager/Aspire 2 Be

Remote Technology

Teams in Easter Ross and Lochaber are working with Open Brolley to develop and run a pilot on using “remote technology” to enhance the services we can provide to people living in remote and rural areas. Service users will choose whether or not they wish to take part in this innovative way of working. Communication between a service user and a support worker is via a tablet device in the service user’s home. This would enable the service user and support worker to see and hear each other and access a virtual personal support plan and to share documents to work on together, such as a letter or a bill the service user has received and wishes support with. We hope there will also be opportunities to add content relevant to each service user, if wished, that can prompt and support day to day activities. While the pilot is being run in remote and rural areas, the technology may in time be able to assist anyone in an isolated situation, which can include more urban situations too.

The use of technology aims to complement and enrich the more traditional ways we provide support in people’s homes by making best use of resources, and there will still be a need for face to face contact. This is an exciting new development for us, that would be hoped to improve services for people living in some very isolated and remote settings, and enable them to receive more value from their support time as staff travel time would be very much reduced.

Linda Birnie, Community Services Manager/Aspire 2 Be

Gardening Season!

Our Service Users at Burn Road, 24/7 supported accommodation, have been busy in their gardens. Willie has been busy cutting his grass and enjoying the sunshine. 

Service User Meeting Feedback

On Thursday the 19th May 2016, the Inverness Support Services held its first Service users meeting at the new office in Tomnahurich Street.   The group discussed the Party in the Garden which is taking place on the 24th June at the Recovery Centre.  The Service Users also discussed group outings such as the Inverness Military Tattoo in Fort George and the Steam Train in Aviemore.  This meeting took place on the same day as our very own Barry Mercado who turned 70!

The service user meeting doubled up as a mini party for Barry with lots of food and drink on hand for all to enjoy.   Both staff and service users took part in wishing Barry a very happy birthday and celebrated with lots of cake.  During the Service users meeting a winner was chosen from random for the ‘Service user satisfaction feedback’ Jordan Bean was the winner of the £10.00 gift card!  

Lauren Bell, Business Support Officer


Maternity Leave

 Kelsey and Natasha just before Kelsey went on maternity leave. 

Kelsey and Natasha just before Kelsey went on maternity leave. 

Congratulations to Kelsey, Support Worker at Easter Ross, who is currently on maternity leave enjoying some time off with her new baby girl, Bryony! Also we'd like to wish a warm welcome back to Yvonne who has returned to work at the Recovery Centre. She had baby boy called Reuben. 

Training Dates

Medication (New Staff) – 2nd July 10.00 – 13.00 at Recovery Centre

Medication (Refreshers) – 22nd July 10.00 – 13.00 at Recovery Centre

Moving & Handling – 22nd July 13.00 – 16.30 at Inshes Church

Food Hygiene – 27th July 09.00 – 17.00 at Head Office

Food Hygiene – 28th July 09.00 – 17.00 at Head Office

Food Hygiene – 2nd August 09.00 – 17.00 at Head Office

Behaviour That Challenges – 9th August 09.30 – 17.00 at Smithton Church

Adult, Support & Protection  - 23rd August 10.00 – 12.30 Venue to be confirmed

Moving & Handling – 26th August 13.30 – 16.30 at Inshes Church

WRAP – 18th & 25th August 10.00 – 16.30 at Inshes Church

Behaviour That Challenges (Refreshers) – 6th September 13.30 – 16.30 Inshes Church

WRAP – 1st & 8th September 10.00 – 16.30 at Inshes Church

Starters & Leavers


Julie Miller - Support Worker ISS              

Martin McIver – Relief Support Worker BHRC

Helen Leggett - Relief Support Worker Lochaber

Duncan MacPherson - Relief Support Worker BHRC

Deborah Wilson – Administrator HO

Jenny Cargill – Relief Support Worker BHRC

Rosie Clark – Staff Nurse BHRC

Hazel Silvey – Relief Support Worker BHRC

Shona Nicolson – Staff Nurse BHRC

Evelyn Smith – Relief Support Worker BHRC



Lesley Frame – Staff Nurse BHRC

Liz Mackintosh – Relief Support Worker BHRC

Mike Dixon – Relief Support Worker BHRC/ISS

Peter MacDonald – Support Worker ISS

Veronica MacLeman – Administrator HO

Updated Policies

Care at Home and Home based Financial Procedure

Driving at Work

Environmental Risk Assessment – Scalding (new)

Exit Interview Policy

Mentoring Policy

Nursing registration with the NMC

Resources Policy

Use of Intranet and Internet Policy