Challenge and sustainable change with Aycliffe Secure Services
We were looking to embed change rather than just have a series of change initiatives. Oasis offers challenge and a sustainable approach, personal connection and expertise.Gill PalinSecure Services Manager, Aycliffe Secure Services
Aycliffe Secure Services is a secure unit for young people aged 12 to 17. Based in County Durham, it comes under the umbrella of Durham County Council but is financially independent – places are commissioned by the Youth Justice Board and local authorities, funding is by central government through the Youth Justice Board.
Oasis supported Aycliffe through complex contract negotiations, changes in government policy and priorities, and a reduction in the number of secure homes from 30 in 2000 to 20 in 2010, with further closures possible.
An uncertain future
Aycliffe was facing an uncertain future in 2005. With a dilapidated building, the organisation needed to develop its senior management team, get funding for a new build and secure its long-term future.
Oasis’s work with Aycliffe began by exploring the institution’s view of its responsibility for the care and control of the young people in its charge. At the time, for a secure unit to examine their position on the care-control continuum was very unusual.
Aycliffe made a firm choice of a child-centred focus with the emphasis on a caring role. This clear positioning allowed the senior management team to focus on business plans and priorities and the small matter of renewing a £7million contract.
Oasis then worked with Aycliffe to examine whether the management structure was fit for purpose.
The restructuring was painful, with redundancies and demotions, but paid long-term dividends. By 2008 Aycliffe had a management team that was fit for the future.
Secure Services Manager Gill Palin said: “The Ofsted inspectorate was unsure at first but are now convinced by it and it has had a positive impact on staff and the young people.”
Challenge and sustainable change
Oasis took a collaborative approach, involving staff from all levels and areas of the organisation to create a vision of where they would like to be by 2013.
Oasis Director Claire Maxwell says: “The senior management team and the majority of staff have sustained enormous amounts of cultural change and have embraced a more collaborative approach to working because of their belief that accountability, personal responsibility and respect are crucial elements for the future of their young people as well as for themselves.”
Other work has focused on staff development, with all staff going through the Collaboration in Action programme; systems development and the creation of change partners, all based on the respect agenda – child-centred approach. The feedback from staff has been that the initiatives they have been involved in have been beneficial personally and they can see the organisational benefits.
Gill says: “Collaboration in Action has been worth its weight. It has been cascaded to all staff and the feedback has been exceptional. We are now starting the process of self and peer reviews for all staff.”
Close and collaborative working
The senior management team are now working more closely and collaboratively. “The impact Oasis has had on the personal development of the senior management team and middle management team has been measureable and visible. It has been sustainable change,” says Gill.
The personal development programmes that staff and managers have been on with Oasis have increased self-awareness. Managers who are more aware of their own strengths and weaknesses are able improve performance and how they deal with others.
Those who have been on the programmes have been challenged and are now more able to handle challenges.
Gill says: “Oasis offers challenge and a sustainable approach, personal connection and expertise.”
Claire says: “The senior management team and staff have given a huge level of commitment to this culture change process. They kept going through moments of doubt because they know moving away from a command and control model of care will be better for the young people. It is a privilege to work with them.”
Aycliffe has now secured funding and plans for its new build are complete. Staff and young people moved into the state-of-the-art complex in summer 2011.