Chair’s Report 2017 – 18

Vocational Rehabilitation Association

 Chair’s report 2017-18


Dear Members,

I am reporting to you at the end of my first year as Chair of the VRA. The journey has been both challenging and – at times – frustrating, given the Government’s constant changing of healthcare policies, and seeming reluctance to recognise the enormous benefits of vocational rehabilitation, but overall it has been most enjoyable, and the fruits of our hard labour are increasingly evident.  Late in the year we have seen some movement towards recognizing the benefits of VR with the Challenge Fund grant opportunities, The Council for Work and Health initiating a project to inform clinicians and employers about Reasonable Accommodations via their website, and with the budget announcements, some indication that IPS has relevance and a projection that 55,000 more people with mental health issues should be offered the opportunity of this evidence based approach to returning people with mental health issues back to work.  More needs to be done, but as ever the VRA will seek to be at the forefront of government policies on VR.


Together, we have been seeking to ensure that members’ interests are represented via active involvement in organisations such as the SOM, Council for Work and Health, RCOT SS Work and the ABI/IUA Rehabilitation Working Party, as well as through more informal relationships across the wider sector.  Through these varied alliances, I believe we can develop a strong industry voice, which will be heard by policy makers and commissioners alike.


First, however, I would like to thank my fellow Trustees: Shirley Morrison-Glancy, Joy Reymond, Kerry Foster, Jenny Ceolta-Smith, Helen Valls-Russell, Gary Johnston, Sue Godby, John Pilkington, Andrew Mills, Beth Husted, Alexandra Freeman, Alex Pugh, and Andrew Frank, without whose help and energy the association would grind to a halt very quickly.  As well as attending Trustee meetings, they contribute to our committees and initiatives and represent the VRA at events around the country.


I would also like to give special thanks to Shirley Morrison-Glancy and John Pilkington, who are stepping down as Trustees this year, but who will continue to support our endeavors.


My first year as Chair began with the commencement of serious planning and preparations for our third joint conference with BABICM and CMSUK. We have agreed that in 2019, we will not have a Together conference, but we will revisit the arrangement in 2020.


This year we held a successful Study Day in May and in February; and September of this year we held 2 Corporate events.  In May we learned about IPS (Independent Placement and Support) which I think we all agreed was a true vocational opportunity to bring the public sector into our association.  In February Joy Reymond led the event and in September Kerry Foster kindly presented on the challenges of RTW providing advice from Australia. All of these were very well received and further made a mark for VRA leading on educational development on Vocational Rehabilitation.  I hope many of you attended and found it both enjoyable and stimulating.


Last year we discussed the ‘Learning Centre’, which would embrace the new digital technologies, and would provide a virtual space where you, the members, can seek supportive evidence, and learn from other practitioners and experts in your field. This year we delivered 8 Webinars thanks to Shirley Morrison-Glancy and our webinars were presented to over 200 people in attendance.  Of note was our sessions GDPR, Brain Injury and VR, Dyslexia and Coaching.  We want to thank those that presented all our Webinars which numbered about 12 people.


Our webinars are ‘free-to-all’ to attend.  However, we have now initiated a charge of £15 for non-members to receive a certificate of attendance, but it remains free for members.  We are pleased to note that we have gained members on the back of just 3 webinars presented in this fashion.  Many thanks to our Trustee, Shirley Morrison-Glancy, for driving this programme, and for ensuring the technology works each time.


The other major initiative, which came out of a Trustee strategy session four years ago, was to build the VRA brand. I have explained before why I believe it is necessary to have a strong ‘presence’in the industry, and for influential people to know and recognise the VRA as one of the ‘go to’organisation.


Throughout this year, we have continued with a number of initiatives, which are designed to place the VRA as one of the thought leaders in the rehabilitation sector.


You may recall that, for the past two years, we have been working with members of BABICM and CMSUK on the preparation of a Skills and Competency Framework for the delivery of quality case management practice. This framework is now being used to develop a basis for an independent accreditation of case managers. We have engaged the support and assistance of the Professional Standards Association, who will ultimately audit the Register of Accredited case managers. At the moment, we are in the process of consulting on the benefits of accreditation and assessing the long-term benefits to members.  We are particularly interested to understand if this would be attractive to purchasers of VR, many of who are clients to our members.  Surveys are out to various organisations through FOIL and APIL to hear their members comments in this regard


At the H&W@W conference this year, we put together a half day of presentations and speakers on the theme of Vocational Rehabilitation. This was badged as a VRA Study Day and was most successful. We are currently planning next year’s event with the organisers and hope to see ‘vocational rehabilitation’ spread across a number of presentation streams.


Of course, many of you have also helped in lots of different ways over the last year – at events, in working groups, and at the annual conference – and I thank you, also.  I particularly want to thank Ceri Goodrum again this year, who is leading our push into the mysterious world of social media, and all that goes with it.


A final big, big thank you goes to Anna McNeil for her support to me with the many tasks that fall to the chair of an organisation like the VRA. Without her, life for me, and for the Trustees would have been very different.  And I would like to say that she will be sorely missed as we go into 2019.


So, with gratitude in my heart, I just want to close by saying thank you loyal members for your support and endeavors over this year and I look forward to working with you in 2019 as well.


Deborah Edwards

Chair, Vocational Rehabilitation Association