Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Safe, Safe, Safe – Standards for Health for mental health organisations

Nicky Morris (Ponthafren Association) receives a Standards for
Health certificate from Lesley at the charity's recent AGM 
My colleague Lesley Austen has been working for the past 12 months at Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations as the Safe Services Officer. Amongst many other things, she has supported organisations in the mental health voluntary sector to engage with the “Standards for Health” quality assurance scheme.

Safe Services is an increasingly important element of supporting the Third Sector to grow and thrive and we wanted to find out more. We caught up with Lesley at her PAVO base at Plas Dolerw in Newtown to ask a few questions.

What does a Safe Services Officer do on a daily basis?

I provide one to one support to organisations to help them comply with the standards. We map the standards against any existing quality assurance which may already be in place to avoid duplications.

Can you give us a bit more background information about the Standards for Health and explain why they are so important?

The ‘Doing Well, Doing Better Standards for Health Services in Wales’ came into force from the 1st April 2010 and replaced the previous standards that were introduced in 2005. The framework of standards (2010) sets out the requirements of what is expected of all health services in all settings.

Engaging with Standards for Health ensures organisations have the quality assurance in place to comply with Welsh Government issued National Minimum Standards for Independent Healthcare Services in Wales and be eligible to apply for Health Board funding, through grants, commissioning and tendering.

How can an organisation and/or service use the Standards?

A ‘How To’ guide has been developed to assist third sector organisations to use the Standards for Health Services. The guide aims not only to support you and your organisation/service to use the Standards, but also help NHS organisations and professionals to assure themselves that third sector partners delivering health services and care meet and use the Standards too.

If organisations do not comply with the Standards what implications does that have?

Current funding may not be renewed; opportunities for commissioning may be closed to them.

If an organisation is unclear about how to achieve the necessary Standards, what can the staff and/or volunteers do?

PAVO provides FREE information and training to help voluntary organisations in Powys comply with the Standards. You can contact me to find out more (see details below) or check out the PAVO website here.

How much work is involved in achieving the Standards?

For established organisations, not very much – most of the policies and procedures are already in place, and unlike some quality assurance system there is no requirement to produce a huge portfolio of evidence.

Organisations are asked to firstly identify which of the 26 standards apply to the service they provide, document what they have in place (on prepared electronic templates) and index where physical evidence (policies, documents, posters etc) are stored or displayed.

Then they identify what if anything they need to do to comply with the standards and develop an improvement plan (again on a prepared template) in order to achieve it.

Talk us through a particularly rewarding aspect to your role

PAVO recently had the great pleasure of presenting a certificate of completed engagement with the Standards for Health Quality Assurance system to Ponthafren Association at the organisation's recent AGM.

Ponthafren Association is the first organisation in Powys supported by PAVO to complete the process and their commitment and diligence will not only act as an incentive to other organisations, their approach will act as a framework of good practice and an aid to working with the Standards.

What are the most challenging aspects of the role?

The geography of Powys – everywhere takes so long to get to – but it also makes the journeys very enjoyable!

Tell us about the most valuable thing you have learnt since starting your role?

The variety and varying needs of the Third Sector in Powys and the untiring commitment of the army of volunteers who sustain it.

How did you come to work at PAVO originally?

Finding too much time on my hands after working for over 20 years in the voluntary sector in Wales, I thought my experience may be of benefit as a volunteer. I was fortunate to find an interesting opportunity at PAVO, and using my previous experience of Quality Assurance implementation I assisted in the achievement of PQASSO (Practical Quality Assurance System for Small Organisations) level 2.

After volunteering for a year, when a part time post became available, I applied, and the rest – as they say – is history!

Of course, you’re not just the Safe Services Officer at PAVO. You’ve had a number of other roles since joining the organisation. Tell us a little about them.

Whilst I was volunteering, I undertook the stakeholder feedback survey for the year, and was both surprised and honoured to be asked to write up the final report; de-duplicated the contacts in our complicated data base system and did preparatory work on other quality assurance systems.

As well as my Safe Service role, I also work as a Community Development Officer 2 days per week, providing advice and training to both new and established voluntary organisations, deliver outreach information sessions, assist with preparing grant applications, constitutions, charities registration etc.

What do you like to do in your own time when you’re not working for PAVO?

Spending time with my family – husband, five children and eight grandchildren - which takes up quite a lot of my time as they are spread between Anglesey, Brighton, Glasgow and Amsterdam!

I love to cook, especially to bake and always enjoy trying something new and the combination of those two activities is great – when my dining table is jam-packed with the people I love and the food that they love to eat. You can watch Lesley’s cookery YouTube channel here.

My other great passion is family history and so far I have traced mother’s maternal ancestry back to the 1600s and my father’s paternal ancestry to the early 1700s – it is an ongoing quest with every answer posing another dozen questions.

I also enjoy spending time in my garden, though my role is more artistic director than using the spade and hoe!  It’s a wild country cottage garden and not everyone’s taste – but I love it.

For more information please contact Lesley Austen, Safe Services Officer, email: lesley.austen@pavo.ork.uk or tel: 01597 822191.

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