‘The most valuable asset in Centrepoint is our staff ….’
07.02.2020: This week marked the start of the delivery of the Centrepoint Psychologically Informed Environment (PIE) training for staff. As previously mentioned in this PIE blog (c.f. 25.20.19), this consists of two days of PIE training to staff. The first day is for ALL staff (covering PIE, our Attachment Theory (c.f. Bowlby, 1969) Framework, reflective practice skills, trauma informed and basic counselling / relationship building skills, and staff self-care), and the second day is for any staff working directly with young people (covering engagement building skills as well as psychologically informed / evidence based therapeutic ‘tools’ and further staff-self-care).
As a newly developed ‘co-produced’ bespoke training package (albeit based on similar PIE training offered in the homeless sector, just adapted specifically for working with homeless young people), this week’s session was a ‘pilot’ and I was somewhat anxious about how it would ‘land’ with attendees. However, staff attending were welcoming, enthusiastic and engaged really positively in the session, so even despite some technological issues with IT equipment and an unplanned fire alarm (!), I felt that the day went really well and staff feedback was very good. Consequently, I want to thank this first staff group for their patience (!) and interest in PIE, which definitely helped my delivery ‘nerves’ and which also led to some thoughtful, interesting and reflective discussions in the session. I hope attendees had lots of ‘food for thought’ from the session that they can take back to their different roles within the organisation. Of course in an national charity such as Centrepoint, which employs over 500 staff, this is only the start of a six month roll out of staff training across all our regions (London, Bradford, Barnsley, Manchester, and Sunderland) and I look forward to meeting with and training with more of our amazing staff across the organisation in 2020.
The importance of providing staff training to develop / build upon their existing psychological skills and knowledge working with the complex needs that our homeless young people are often experiencing is a critical part of any PIE. For example, Keats et al (2012) note ‘staff training and support is therefore central to the transition into psychologically aware services’ (c.f. https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/340022/1/Good%2520practice%2520guide%2520-%2520%2520Psychologically%2520informed%2520services%2520for%2520homeless%2520people%2520.pdf, p21). Of note, if is highlighted that ‘raising self-awareness is a key component of the training. This describes the way people learn to make choices based on thinking rather than feelings. It is this thinking which empowers them’ (p23; Keats et al, 2012). In other words, it is this ability to ‘think about thinking’ (i.e. our thoughts as well as those we work with), that ensures that we are psychologically informed in our practice. However, whilst these ‘thinking about thinking’ skills are highlighted in PIE training, like any skill they need practice and therefore they will really begin to be ‘embedded’ with repeated opportunity to ‘utilise them’. Hence Centrepoint is also beginning to deliver monthly reflective practice sessions across the organisation and staff were encouraged post training to consider how they can build ‘reflection’ into their everyday practice.
Linked to staff training and reflective practice, this week I have also spent some time working with colleagues in the Human Resources (HR) department on Centrepoint’s new PIE informed ‘People Strategy’, in particular focusing on staff development and well-being. As highlighted to me again this week, delivering the first PIE training session to a variety of staff from across different teams in the organisation (e.g. Head Office, CP Works: Education & Training, CP Health Team, and Housing and Support), one of Centrepoint’s biggest assets is the staff that work in the charity. I was particularly struck by the passion, dedication, empathy, experience and interest that staff have in working with homeless young people. I know from my own decades of ‘frontline experience’ that this can be far from an easy job at times, as staff juggle the demands of the system they work in (both within the organisation and in conjunction with our statutory / non-statutory partners) with the needs of the homeless young people. However, our outcomes (c.f. https://centrepoint.org.uk/about-us/impact-and-success/) show that we already do what we do very well, and our staff should be proud of what they do and the difference they make to the lives of homeless young people. Nevertheless, we want to do even better and considering the importance of our staff in achieving our positive outcomes, it is therefore vital that we ensure the wellbeing of our staff and value them appropriately. Consequently, as well as our PIE training and reflective practice offer to staff, Centrepoint is starting a process of ‘co-producing’ ideas for staff well-being moving forward, including some focus groups and feedback processes on our People Strategy as it develops.
Finally, when reflecting on this week, also linked to this theme of the importance of our staff in Centrepoint, I am extremely pleased to report that in the London region, I have now been joined part time by Dr Natalie Seymour (PIE Clinical Psychologist). Natalie brings some fantastic experience of working with young people in the charity sector (e.g. https://www.mac-uk.org/our-approach), particularly in the area of co-production with marginalised and excluded young people, and I am so excited to work with her on the delivery and further development of Centrepoint’s PIE moving forward. Natalie assisted with the staff training session this week, and she will be starting to set up reflective practice sessions in services in the coming months. I hope that next week’s interviews for a further PIE Clinical Psychologist for the London region will also be successful as I move from being ‘the only psychologist in the village’ (c.f. PIE Blog: 03.05.2019) to the beginnings of a ‘PIE Psychology Team’. However, I am still looking for a Clinical Psychologist to join us in the North (West Yorkshire), to make a difference and #changethestory for homeless young people. This is a really exciting and interesting role with a fantastic group of staff and young people in Bradford and Barnsley, and offers real opportunity for the right person to deliver and develop PIE further in this region. As a profession, Clinical Psychologists have recently been talking more about how our professional ‘clinical psychology’ skills can be applied outside the ‘therapy room’, be more ‘co-produced’ and ‘system orientated’, with a consideration of wider social policy, and I have experienced that working in a charity setting outside the National Health Service (NHS), can be just such an opportunity. Therefore, if this sounds like something you or someone you know might be interested in, please do get in touch with me on firstname.lastname@example.org and/or have a look at the further information about the role here: https://jobs.centrepoint.org.uk/job/115351, and I look forward to welcoming you to join our valued staff team in Centrepoint in the future….