This week has an end-of-term feel about it. ICVA has spent much of this week in and around Westminster and there is a noticeable demob-happy atmosphere as Parliament moves into recess. The out of office replies are flooding in from scheme managers and Whitehall is brimming with tourists taking selfies at phone boxes. It has been a busy and unpredictable few months and there is no doubt that some of our colleagues are running on fumes. Team ICVA is also exhausted. Thursday was my first day at the computer for some time (apologies to those awaiting emails) and it’s also the first time that I have had some space to think about the week gone by. Sometimes the urge to blog takes over and I wanted to share what we have been up to.
I think that I have mentioned before that ICVA’s staff motto (now spreading to the full board) is ‘Go Hard or Go Home’. This year has been tough. ICVA has two members of staff, we do not have offices and we work on a shoestring. Our funders cut our grant from 2016/17 onwards and we have restructured and adapted – going into deficit for the year whilst we review and revise our membership offer.
My favourite Venn diagram is titled ‘People I Most Like to Work With’ and overlaps circles of ‘dreams big’, ‘has fun’ and ‘gets things done’. Fortunately for me, Team ICVA comprises just such people. The Board of Directors embraced the opportunity to review ICVA’s structure and purpose. ICVA took risks this year, questioning every part of our work. Instead of flying under the radar, we were vocal about our challenges and asked our members to engage with them. This wasn’t always easy, but it has helped us to understand what our members and stakeholders need. We were brave, we dreamt big.
We had to work hard to deliver. We took on governance issues: internally, we streamlined our Board of Directors and established an expert forum to share ideas and bring all of our regions together. Externally, we invested time building relationships with our partners and developed formal reporting structures for our funders. We gathered data to demonstrate the value of our wonderful schemes and their volunteers and we made sure that custody visiting had a voice at the highest levels. It wasn’t easy to make these changes. We restructured our team, which was difficult and painful. Our previous management board had to reflect on its role; some directors stepped back whilst others took on additional responsibility. Schemes rallied around and shared data, reporting and were honest about areas where they needed support.
We also had the pleasure of welcoming in new team members. Our honorary treasurer helped us adjust to the new funding environment. Our Project Officer reformed our training offer, created new resources and toured the UK training the trainer. This new blood has been refreshing, it gave us the energy we needed.
All of this reflection, effort and change culminated this week with our awayday and AGM. I haven’t had time to think for the past few weeks. My diary has been packed – touring the country for various visits, writing our annual report, Board papers, sorting through accounts and trying to keep up with email. The week arrived before I’d really realised it was coming up and I found myself battling trains, picking up lunch (all hands on deck) and rushing across London to start our awayday.
It did not disappoint. I was so heartened by the awayday, AGM and meetings that followed. Two themes stand out:
The first is the calibre of Team ICVA. Sherry and I merged into an instant team when she joined the organisation, appointing ourselves ‘Team ICVA’ immediately. This team quickly expanded to include our Treasurer, Chair, Vice-Chair and Board members. We knew that we were onto a good thing when our Scottish director started to joke with us and shared holiday photos. A number of our Board members, some now departed, worked incredibly hard to create a team and a Board that was fit for purpose. I am hugely grateful and indebted to them. The Board got through difficult situations and we bonded. As the year has gone by, Team ICVA now encompasses the staff and volunteers on the Board, our directors and our National Expert Forum who represent our members as well as our scheme managers, friends and stakeholders.
Our revised structure enables everyone to play to their strengths. Our new, external recruits joined existing directors. We now have a communications professional who has already developed the structure of a Communications Strategy at our awayday. It was a real pleasure to see directors volunteer to take part in media training. I saw the quality of Team ICVA time and again throughout the week – when Jo took on oversight of our governance, when the National Expert Forum gave valuable feedback on our Quality Assurance Framework when our AGM came together and we secured excellent, new directors. We are all in the right place to get maximum value from our skills. I am so proud to be working with such experts and grateful to them all for volunteering their time, effort and skills.
The second, and linked theme is that we are all now working in a shared direction. ICVA has a shared vision and mission. Team ICVA and friends want custody that has effective oversight and monitoring. ICVA’s mission is to lead, support and represent schemes to effectively do this. ‘Lead, support and represent’ is now the mantra of the Board and will be threaded through everything we do. We are getting momentum and we are producing good work. I was so happy to see everyone at the AGM and to welcome new directors – Martin, Craig and Marc. We are making a difference to custody.
Back to my Venn diagram – we are dreaming big, we are getting things done, but it is also important to have fun. Custody can be a difficult environment. We can be immersed in mental health issues or the protection of children whose lives have led them to early arrests. We are all proud of our work, but it can be heartbreaking. It’s therefore important to me that ICVA is a fun and enlivening place to be – so that we can do the difficult work day in and day out and feel joy and pride in what we do.
As strange as it may sound to some, our awayday, forum meeting, AGM and Board of Directors meetings were fun. However, they weren’t our last stop for the week and our Chair (Martyn Underhill) and new director (Marc Jones) had an appealing invitation for a media reception with the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC). This gave us a chance to relax and speak with PCCs and media reps.
Full disclosure here – I love networking. I know that it is a dirty word to some people, but not to me. I love talking about custody visiting. Why wouldn’t I want to wax lyrical about my colleagues and thank PCCs for their work? Furthermore, why wouldn’t I want to listen to their ideas and what they are doing locally? ICVA is a small organisation, we need to use our voice for our members, and we need to punch above our weight.
All of the PCCs that I spoke to were proud of our work and many had been to custody recently. It was a pleasure to see familiar faces. Gwent’s Jeff Cuthbert was pleased with the last blog and had shared it with his team. Thames Valley’s Anthony Stansfeld has a new Superintendent for custody (looking forward to meeting you, Katy). Alison Hernandez, PCC from Devon and Cornwall was welcoming and enthused and, of course, Martyn and Marc were flying the flag for Team ICVA. Martyn and I spent a fair amount of time talking about voluntary interviews and mental health with some of the journalists present and Danny Shaw gave me a mini masterclass in how to get the attention of the media.
I have, of course, come back from these few days with so many more ideas – new custody suites to visit, welcome packs for new scheme managers, new training ideas, I would like a policing APPG on custody, a new website, communications lines, media training etc. My ambitions run away from me, but that’s ok. We need a business plan for 2018/19 and what better time to start working on that?
Back to the end of school feeling. I am writing this whilst my children get dressed for an end of term party, I will publish it once they are in bed. We have waved a sad farewell to my daughter’s teacher and my Twitter timeline is filled with parliamentary workers tweeting happy gifs. I am joining them, starting a week off to decompress and replenish my energy. I will be back ready and raring to go to deliver briefings and consult on our Code of Practice the following week. Enjoy the week ahead, everyone.