Nigel Henderson reflects on 30 years at Penumbra
Earlier this year I made a big decision. I announced my retirement from Penumbra. I have had the great honour of working for Penumbra for 30 years and of being Chief Executive for 22 of those years. I will be leaving at the end of September and our Board are currently advertising for my successor.
I have worked, and continue to work, with fantastic people who share my passion for making the world a better and more just place for people who experience mental ill health.
When I joined Penumbra, in 1991, you could fit the whole staff team into one room. Now, we have around 500 staff providing services to 23 of Scotland’s IJB’s/Health and Social Care Partnerships. However, it has never been about growing the organisation for growth’s sake. We have been clear from the beginning that our aim was to make a positive difference to the lives of people experiencing mental ill health. The values and principles that underpinned our work then, continue to be at the core of all that we do. Whether we are directly providing support, working in partnership with others or influencing policy and practice. Our values of courage, compassion, curiosity and collaboration and our belief that people can and do recover from mental ill health have ensured we are continually striving to ‘do the right thing not just to do things right’.
There are many examples of things we have achieved over the last 30 years, some examples are: Developing Nova services that created a model of day services without buildings, creating services to support people who self-harm. Providing the first formal mental health peer support training course in Scotland in 2006 and then employing the first team of peer support workers in 2007. Creating the first 24/7 Crisis Centre in Scotland and being a leading partner in the Distress Brief Intervention programme. Working in partnership with others to establish the See Me anti stigma campaign and the Scottish Recovery Network were great experiences of collaborative endeavour. More recently Penumbra are proud to be partners in Scotland’s first Alliancing partnership, Future Pathways.
Our staff always impress me through their compassion, their hope and their commitment to the people we support. Penumbra is the leading and largest employer of mental health peer workers in Scotland. Almost 20% of our workforce are in peer roles. Putting lived and living experience of mental ill health at the heart of what we do has made Penumbra an inspiring and hopeful place to work.
I have worked through various legislative changes, from the NHS and Community Care act in the early 90’s to the creation of the self-directed support act and Health and Social Care Partnerships. From the NHS internal market to the quasi market in social care. Throughout these changes we have asked ourselves the ‘so what?’ question. What difference are we making to the lives of the people we support? I am particularly proud of the work we have undertaken to embed a personal outcomes approach within Penumbra which led us to develop and validate our HOPE® framework and the I.ROC® personal outcomes measure. I am even more delighted that this work has resulted in I.ROC® being used by over 80 organisations across the UK and around the world and translated into different languages.
Personally, I have enjoyed the opportunities to lead, shape and contribute to Penumbra’s work, to work with others to develop ideas and practices that have improved the way services are organised and delivered. I have been honoured to be a board member and past convenor of CCPS (Coalition of Care and Support Providers Scotland), a board member and chair of the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland and President of Mental Health Europe from 2014-2018.
The recent Review of Adult Social Care points to some forthcoming opportunities (and challenges) for third sector social care providers. I wish my successor and all at Penumbra continuing success.
Thanks for the journey, it has been a huge privilege to lead Penumbra. Seamus Heaney said, ‘Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.’ At Penumbra there is definitely ‘good worth working for’.
Nigel Henderson is chief executive of Penumbra