As I come to the end of my five year term as Chair of the Dimensions Board, I have been spending some time thinking about the things which I will most remember about this organisation and the time I have spent here.
Most people who have been working in our sector for the last few years might well describe it as an endless game of Whack-a -Mole – no sooner do we get on top of one challenge than Government drops another one into the mix from left field!
Where this might have felt paralysing to some organisations, however, it has helped to make everyone involved with Dimensions even clearer about our strongly-shared purpose and more determined to achieve it.
Dimensions is an organisation prepared to come out fighting for what we all believe in – that is something to be proud of and something which has allowed us to continue to grow, develop and increase our voice and impact despite all the pressures we have faced.
Any successful organisation has to spend time getting butter on the bread before adding the jam which makes the sandwich special, and we have spent a great deal of time over the past five years working on how to make systems, controls and our use of resources more efficient and effective and focused on what really matters.
Despite having so many national regulators leaning in over our shoulder and often with different agendas, Dimensions has done a great job of staying one step ahead by setting even tougher standards for ourselves which link to our own ambition to drive for high quality, safe and effective services. And the increasing use of people we support, and now family members too, to work with us on all this as experts by experience has been absolutely central to the progress we have made.
Dimensions has grown substantially over the past five years and we have rightly challenged ourselves about how we can seek to be an exemplar provider of personalised services and still reap all the advantages of capacity and influence of being such a large, national provider.
Devolving power as close as possible to each person we support is a central pillar of our Strategy for 2020
It is difficult and complex to find the right balance between what has to be held at the centre as the same right across the organisation and what can and should be different for subsidiaries like Discovery and Waymarks, regions, local teams and individuals we support to achieve their very best.
Our understanding of that will change all the time, but we have already made remarkable progress on that journey.
Activate now sits at the heart of our commitment to give individuals much more choice and control in their own lives.
I have also been very excited by how people we support, families and staff have begun to have a much louder voice on the national agenda, especially through the growing influence of Council and with the launch of our new Public Affairs team.
Campaigns such as #ImWithSam and #MyGPandMe, and the wider work on health, can drive really radical change in public thinking and practice – even more so if we continue to have the courage to share and learn from what we get wrong as well as from all we successfully achieve.
One of the things which has always stood out for me about Dimensions is the quality and commitment of all our staff and some of the very best memories I will take away with me will be from watching just how powerfully and creatively individuals and teams have worked to find ways to communicate with, build the confidence of and open up and opportunities with people we support – with enormous warmth and often great shared humour!
The exceptional financial pressures under which we have been working have inevitably limited what we would have wanted to do to recognise this financially, but I am really pleased that we have still managed to increase our spending on both staff pay and development as a proportion of our budget.
Dimensions is a remarkably positive and powerful community of people we support, families, staff, and the growing number of partners on the journey with us from other providers to commissioners, civil servants and politicians.
It is a community from which I have learned a great deal and one which I have enormously enjoyed and valued being a part of.
Thank you to everyone I have had the privilege to work with over these past five years. I hand over to Nick Baldwin as the new Chair with great confidence that Dimensions will continue to build on all that has already been achieved and get ever closer to our shared vision of ‘an inclusive society where people have equal chances to live the life they choose.’