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Hello and a very Merry Christmas to one and all and wishing you all the very best for 2018.

This year has seen a wonderful 12 months of festivities for us at Birchwood Highland, as we celebrated our 30th anniversary amongst service users, staff and stakeholders alike.  

From celebrations in Whin Park, to a carnival parade through Fort William, to a party in the park in Invergordon, it really has been a fun-filled year!  

We’ve also managed to raise our profile significantly as an organisation this year, through an increased number of fundraising activities and mental health anti-stigma events, as well as winning some key awards such as Best Third Sector Organisation and Team of the Year at the Highland Business Women’s Awards.   We have maintained excellent grades at our Recovery Centre and despite a very challenging year in community services, still managed to obtain very good grades as well as being awarded investors in young people and volunteer friendly awards.  It has been a year of a huge amount of work, which has paid off with significant successes and achievements for Birchwood Highland and staff members as a whole.

As we all know, our passion for mental health is a shared purpose which leads everything we do.  Birchwood Highland is well recognised as a leader in excellence here in the Highlands and this is really down to you, staff and service users alike; the team which was recognised by Highland Business Women for its achievement and involvement in ensuring Birchwood Highland is recognised on a national stage. 
It’s almost impossible to cram 2017’s achievements – let alone the achievements of the last thirty years – into one brief introduction but I really can’t thank you all enough for your contribution towards making Birchwood Highland a fantastic place to work. 

Thank you once more for all of your hard work and dedication over the past year and please do enjoy the Christmas and New Year celebrations – you’ve earned it!  And there is a lot more to come in 2018…

Merry Christmas!

Whistleblowing – Raising Concerns at work.

Annabel and I have been joining team meetings and will attend more in 2018 to talk with staff about the importance of the whistleblowing policy, discuss the reasons why it is important to raise any concerns at an early stage and who those concerns should be raised with and the different steps to take if you notice no changes since raising a concern.  We also talked about the fact that if concerns are raised in good faith, it does not matter if you have misunderstood the situation and things are not as bad as you thought. However, if there is a malicious intent, in raising the concern, then that’s a different matter.
The sessions with staff so far have been very informative and have brought up further discussions, including using the example of Winterbourne Care where as Annabel advised, the commissioners and managers of this home, did not set out to create a residential facility with the worst care possible where extremely vulnerable service users were inappropriately treated and as seen in the Panorama programme at the time, verbally and physically abused.  So, how did this happen?  Bit by bit with practice being considered acceptable and common place, staff not raising concerns, sometimes leaving instead, sometimes staying on and mirroring the bad practice and example set by others. This can and does happen in care as seen in this example, so it is really important if you have a concern about work practice to raise it with the appropriate person as soon as you can.

So, why is it important to raise concerns if we have them at work?  Feedback from staff has included:

•    Keeps staff and service users safe
•    Respectful atmosphere
•    Codes of practice
•    Everyone is entitled to a good quality of care
•    Your registration may be on the line if you don’t do anything
•    Social media – we also discussed the power and danger of social media and the need for staff to be aware of this and ensure they lock down access.  Separate guidance on the use of social media by social care staff is available on our intranet side.

What might be the barriers to raising a concern?

•    Fear – concern about the consequences/repercussions/losing your job
•    How difficult it may be
•    If someone is getting bullied at work, they may not have the confidence to go above their manager

We also talked about what a bullying culture at work may look like and staff felt the following:

•    Workload disproportionate
•    Opinions not valued
•    Picked on

We discussed supervision and the importance of this and that it’s everyone’s responsibility, the supervisor and the supervisee to make sure this happens every six weeks and that this should never be viewed as a negative experience.
We also focused on the different ways in which people could raise concerns and who they should approach at different stages.  All of this is outlined in our Whistleblowing Policy on the intranet – please do have a look at this.

Thank you to all staff who have discussed this policy with us to date.


Birchwood Highland's First Ever Charity Shop

We are delighted to announce that we are opening our first ever charity shop! 

Set to open in early 2018, our first ever charity shop will be located on Invergordon’s High Street, in the heart of the Easter Ross port town.  The shop aims to sell high-quality pre-loved and second-hand goods, including: ladies, gents and children’s clothing; jewellery and accessories; small items of furniture and household goods; as well as some new and unused items.

As well as everything you’d expect from a charity shop – and more - this pioneering venture will operate as a social enterprise, not only benefiting customers, but also providing meaningful activity for people we support; through work and volunteer-based experiences.


For our charity shop, we will be relying on donations from staff, members of the public, as well as from local businesses, and any items passed on will be gratefully received in the run-up to the shop opening next year.  Examples of donations may include: good quality ladies, gents and children’s clothing/shoes; children’s toys; jewellery; small items of furniture; household goods and gift items.  Items can be dropped off at Head Office or can also be donated locally at our office in Invergordon.

We are looking for supervisors and volunteer shop assistants to help run the new shop, and applications for these positions are now open. 

All applications will be subject to references and training and support will be provided.  For further information on volunteering, please call our Head Office on 01463 236 507 or email info@birchwoodhighland.org.uk.

It's Christmas!


ISS staff and service users enjoyed their Christmas lunch at The Redcliffe Hotel, Inverness, on Wednesday 13th December.  A great turnout and a fantastic opportunity to catch up over some tasty food.

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The Head Office team enjoyed a lovely meal at Indian Ocean, Inverness, on Saturday 9th December.


David Brookfield, Business Development Manager
Màiri Macdonald, Fundraising and Communications Manager
Naomi Lee, Team Administrator
Jordan Hammond, Fundraising Assistant
Sarah Smith, Team Administrator
Mel O'Keeffe, Events Assistant
Lisa Ross, Administrator
Rachael MacPherson, Film and Video Production Officer
Emily Stokes, Chief Executive

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Head Office and ISS enjoying some Halloween goodies during their team meetings!

30th Anniversary Stakeholder Event

We held our 30th Anniversary Stakeholder Event at Eden Court on the 21st of November 2017. Thank you to all who attended and made the day a success! Hear from some of the attendees in this film made on the day. 

To highlight how far mental health care has come over the years, we produced a short film which tells the story of Ian Elder, a Birchwood Highland service user who experienced some of the treatments and facilities, such as Craig Dunain Hospital in Inverness in the 1950's and 1960's.  Watch 'A Life of Mental Health Problems' below. 

We also screened the film below which highlights our mission, successes and achievements and highlights some of the valuable work that we do. 

60 Second Interview

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A big welcome to Jonathan Mason, who joins the Head Office team as Finance Assistant.  We spoke to Jonathan to find out more:

Name:  Jonathan Mason

Job Title:  Finance Assistant

Based at:  Head Office

Q. What was you previous role? 
A. I worked in sales support and processing and later on system design for BT Net and BT Global Services, although I was employed by Manpower UK.

Q. Are you originally from Inverness? 
A. No, I’m originally from Kendal in Cumbria, but moved to Inverness in 1990.  My father was involved with the Church of God, and that’s what brought us to the Highlands.  I started working for BT in 1998 – the same year in which I met and married Denise, my wife.  We have a son, Nathan, who is currently studying computer systems and networking at Edinburgh Napier University.

Q. If you were stuck in a lift, who would you like to be stuck with?

A. The engineer!

Q. What’s your favourite Christmas song?

A. ‘O Holy Night’ – it’s a lovely hymn.


Service User AGM


Birchwood Highland's Service User AGM took place in Invergordon on Friday 24th November.  Unfortunately, due to the winter weather, staff and service users from Caithness and Lochaber were unable to attend, but lots of fun was had regardless! 

We heard from the Easter Ross and Inverness Teams about all their activities throughout the year and we enjoyed some delicious home baking.  As well as this, £234.94 was raised through sales at our pre-loved stall! 

Thank you to all who helped and attended. 

Nae Ordinary Burns Supper!

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A marvellous blend of song, dance, poetry and drama awaits on Friday 26th January at Nae Ordinary Burns Night.  Along with the Archie Foundation, Birchwood Highland will be benefiting from the charity auction held on the night and we're keen to have a presence at the event.  If you'd like to come along, contact Màiri Macdonald at Head Office: m.macdonald@birchwoodhighland.org.uk

Royal Ascot at the Kingsmills Hotel


Birchwood Highland and Marie Curie would like to invite you to Royal Ascot at the Kingsmills Hotel, a glamourous day of racing and fundraising. With support from the fantastic team at the Kingsmills Hotel, we’ll be staging the nation’s favourite race day; bringing Ladies’ Day and The Gold Cup to the wonderful setting of the hotel’s luxury suites and gardens.

The event, on Thursday 21st June, includes a glass of bubbly on arrival followed by a delicious three-course meal with wine, as well as upbeat live music from Dark Horse. Afternoon tea will be served between races and there will be some great bars to revel in.  Don’t forget that we’ll be showing all the race action live via big screens, indoors and outdoors, so why not join us for a flutter?

Dress code: Dress for the occasion!
Tickets: £75.00pp

Early Bird: £65.00pp
- Early Bird Discount Applies Before 31st January 2018

Any money raised on ticket sales, plus our fantastic auction, silent auction and table prizes, will be split between Birchwood Highland and Marie Curie. 

Christmas Fayre

 Thank you to everyone who attended the  Christmas Fayre at Millburn Academy! We still have some beautiful pre-loved jewellery for sale so please feel free to pop in to Head Office for a browse before Christmas.

Trekking the Himalaya for Birchwood Highland

Earlier this year, a group of intrepid travellers went off on a trip of a lifetime to trek in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama in the Himalayas! They raised £16,000 for the charity and, as you can see in this short film, experienced a lot along the way.

Autumn Fashion Show

Thanks to all those who helped make this year's Autumn Fundraising Fashion Show at Howdens Garden Centre such a success! The models were fantastic and we had a great range of prizes donated from local businesses.  As always, STV Presenter and Birchwood Highland Ambassador, Nicola McAlley, did a great job hosting the evening. 

Camping Trip

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"I had a great time on the camping trip. The journey there and back didn’t take too long and was enjoyable. When we got to the campsite we set up our tent as usual and went to grab a bite to eat in Kingussie after a short kick about. I slept well and was ready for the wildlife park the next day. The wildlife centre had quite a few empty enclosures but we got to see Polar bears and Monkeys. A little bonus was the visit to highland folk museum which was great and I enjoyed the classroom that had a teacher inside and we got to experience what a classroom would have been like when there was the belt and writing using a fountain pen was all a new experience. We also stopped off for a walk along the moor where we found a frog and took it to a place with water so that was good. All in all a very enjoyable trip."

- Sean

"I recently went to a camping trip I thoroughly enjoyed. Mark and Sanda were on form and apart from the Mosquitos it was really quite cool! I played football with others and enjoyed it. I slept quite well and it shored up my confidence to go to college. I thank you for arranging it if it was an idea of yours. If not please thank the person that came up with it."

- Ronald


The Boat Trip


"Last Thursday I went on a trip to Dochgarroch with friends from the recovery centre.   When we arrived we met with other service users and all enjoyed a picnic in the rain. Luckily there was a gazebo for us to shelter under. After our picnic and meeting up with new people we boarded the Jacobite cruise where we took a lovely sale to Urquhart castle. The scenery was amazing like Nadine and ourselves. We also enjoyed sitting out in the fresh air which was very relaxing. My favourite part was seeing the rainbow across the loch. I also enjoyed taking a photo of the spaniels with their life jackets on. I found the whole day out so relaxing that I slept until eleven the next day. We would all like to do it all again soon."

- Lainey Anderson

Scottish Symphony Ensemble's Visit to Birchwood Highland


"I would like to say a big thank you to the Scottish Symphony Ensemble who came and did a session with us at Birchwood.  There were five musicians and a double base, cello, viola and two fiddles.  The gentleman on the fiddle introduced everybody and then they played an introductory piece “people get ready there’s a train coming”.  It was lovely to sing to the musicians.  Kristen who is our music instructor was there singing and playing guitar and ukulele, whilst a fellow resident of Birchwood was playing his guitar and his ukulele.  We played a song which we had written the words and the music which is called “you haven’t walked a mile in my shoes”.  The group said they enjoyed it and then they joined in and played it with us which was very special. We then played another song and they played along with us.   They then finished by playing three pieces of music to us.  It was a very special afternoon and we used our new sun lounge which was great, and a super experience."

  - Ann

The Latest from Lochaber 


Here's the Lochaber Wind Band who held a concert on 29th October with all proceeds going to Lochaber's Service User Group.  The valuable funds raised will be used to buy some new wire racks with wheels for the Grow Well Project.

Check out the project's latest harvest from the garden below!


And here are Lochaber Service Users with their fancy hats and the beautiful mosaic artwork on display at this year's Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival in Inverness.


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. 

Did you know that in the last three years, the number of under-26s employed by Birchwood Highland has increased from 3% to 16%?
Keep an eye out throughout the year for events and activities aimed at young people.  Meanwhile, if you started working for Birchwood Highland before you were aged 26, why not lend your voice to the Young People’s Forum?  Contact Head Office for more information.

Dewdale Court, Invergordon

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Birchwood Highland, in partnership with Highland Council and NHS Highland – is involved in the pilot of an exciting new transitional accommodation development in the Easter Ross town of Invergordon.

An advanced model, the cluster of properties within the development of new build housing at Dewdale Court will provide transitional accommodation for people moving from long-term residential placements into the community; providing a modern approach to community-based supported accommodation.

The new accommodation will provide temporary transitional housing for a range of demographics, including families and single occupants, with Birchwood Highland being in receipt of a number of flats within the available housing.

Wishing all the new residents of Dewdale Court many happy moments in their new homes!

Co-op Local Cause - #TheCoopWay


Exciting news! Our Easter Ross office has been chosen as a Co-op Local Cause - meaning that every time members shop at the Co-op, 1% of what is spent on selected own-brand products and services goes to the local community fund. All the money raised by members in the area will help fund a project to turn an existing shed that is in disrepair into an activity hub for people we support.

Find our more about our cause and see how much we've raised so far by visiting the Birchwood Highland Co-op Local Cause page here: https://goo.gl/2dR4sm

You can choose which cause you want your own 1% to go to. If you're not already a member then you can find out more about Co-op membership in-store or online at https://goo.gl/wiUGy3.

The Bay


                               Lots of fun which filled a part of my day

                               The ducks the yachts the water and the bay

                               The sights and sounds of this world

                              Unpronouncably beautiful

- Chris Foy



WRAP Training

WRAP training has been rolled out successfully to staff members over the last 18 months, and is part of ongoing staff training.  There has been consistent positive feedback from those staff who have completed the Level 1 course.  It was identified in post-course questionnaires that staff working directly with residents and clients feel confident in supporting the residents/clients to work on developing their own WRAP.  Most staff also feel that WRAP has benefited them in their personal and professional lives.

Over the last 12 weeks, a group of four residents at the Recovery Centre completed Level 1 training, and I would like to thank them for their hard work and commitment in doing so. The training they undertook was exactly the same as that for staff, apart from the timetable. Some staff may remember how difficult, and different, it was for us to look at ourselves in so much depth and then to talk about it.  This would have been the same for clients and residents, if not more so, as most would not be used to taking part in this type of training.  Everyone participated openly and honestly, and worked well together within their own group agreement, showing respect and understanding of each other's opinions a values. We had a lot of very interesting and meaningful discussions exploring our own reactions and behaviours, and how we could change things to help our personal recovery.  Comments from the participants included:

" It's made me realise how much I need to learn about myself."
" It was good to have the chance to talk to each other like this - we don't to it normally".
" It was comfortable and felt safe."
" May not do it all but parts of it will help definitely."
"Hope I can keep it going."

I am very impressed by each individual, and the group as a whole, for their achievements. They should be so proud of themselves for gaining Level 1 WRAP Certificates  and for encouraging by example other clients and service users to take steps to improve their own recovery.

Lesley Caskie
WRAP Facilitator

Childcare Scheme


Starters & Leavers

A warm welcome to:

Jonathan Mason – Finance Assistant at Head Office

Hazel Maclaren – Support Worker at Recovery Centre

Kirsty Weatherspoon – Relief Staff Nurse at Recovery Centre

Donald Macleod – Relief Support Worker at Easter Ross

Scott Fraser – Support Worker at Inverness Support Service

Jasmine Henderson – Support Worker at Easter Ross

Nick Riggs – Support Worker at Easter Ross

Sheila Low – Support Worker at Easter Ross

Cheriee Shepherd – Support Worker at Caithness Support Service


A fond farewell to:

Veronica Macleman, Head Office

Lauren Bell, Inverness Support Service

Rebecca Plummer, Recovery Centre

Cheryl Williams, Recovery Centre

Danny Balfour, Inverness Support Service

Rosie Deverell, Recovery Centre

Chloe Sinclair, Caithness Support Service

Marian Mowatt, Caithness Support Service

Chloe Aikman, Easter Ross Support Service

Training dates

January 2018

11th – Food Mood and Behaviour (Highland Autism Support)

19th – Everyday Challenges (Highland Autism Support)

23rd – Social Stories (Highland Autism Support)

30th – ASSIST (Suicide Awareness)

31st – ASSIST (Suicide Awareness)


February 2018

6th and 13th – WRAP

12th – New Psychoactive Substances Training

14th – Adult Support and Protection

21st – Understanding Autism (Highland Autism Support)


March 2018

1st and 8th – Mental Health First Aid (NHS Highland)

8th – Food Mood and Behaviour (Highland Autism Support)

12th – Basic Alcohol and Drugs Awareness Training

12th – safeTALK (NHS Highland)

21st – Understanding Autism (Highland Autism Support)

22nd – Everyday Challenges (Highland Autism Support)

Social Stories (Highland Autism Support)


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