Surrey Choices’ Managing Director Mette Le Jakobsen is a finalist for the Making A Difference Award at the Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards 2023.
Making A Difference Award
An award for an outstanding chief executive, Board member, Trustee or non-executive director who has made significant and sustainable changes in a service. These changes will have positively influenced outcomes for people who use their services, their families and staff.
Colleagues came together to write a nomination for Mette by answering these questions. Take a look at why she became a finalist:
Describe the person, their role and what they have achieved?
In any period of transformation, you need a leader who is calm, visionary and who can bring the whole organisation together. She needed to facilitate a large transformation project, manage challenging efficiency targets and also facilitate growth in many areas of the business. Mette understood the need to meet the strategic goals of the organisations, alongside the local and national political agendas.
As a qualified social worker, she has empathy with both the staff teams but also a good understanding of the people with lived experience. Co-production was not just to be a buzz word but had to be built into the fabric of the organisation. The journey of the people we support had to reflect her personal and the corporate aspirations.
To start the journey, she understood the need to change hearts and minds and find leaders who would help her. One of her priorities was to establish a strong and committed senior leadership team who can carry out her mindset of being the change you want to see. After some previous management issues, it was important she firmly embedded the principles of transparency. On example was holding regular open staff meeting to share successes along with challenges. Colleagues can ask any questions they like to the executive team however challenging, in this open forum– they are guaranteed an answer and encouraged to think how they could find their own solutions. Mette has even spent time working on the frontline in teams to get a real idea of what the issues are like in practice and freely gives her time to mentor other people in Surrey Choices and the wider sector.
Why do you consider this person to be outstanding?
She relentlessly pursues impact and quality, aligning the transformation goals with the mission and values of the organisation.
Describe how this person has worked to make a positive difference to people using the service?
At the heart of her mission, is ensuring all disabled people can be active citizens in their community, experiencing life, love and respect. The Changing days transformation programme reviewed every person who had been in traditional day services, challenging if this was the right way to meet their own personal goals and aspirations. Mette persistently ensured teams pursued these goals focussing on community inclusion even when COVID looked likely to de-rail the who project. Now 100% of those attending day services have a person-centred timetable and most have chosen not to return to their old pattern and are enjoying new freedoms in their local communities.
Mette has over 30 years’ experience in local authority, NHS and commercial sector environments and is strongly focussed on core values to inform the transformation of social care. This has given her flexibility and resilience with an ability to adapt quickly to new environments. She is as comfortable talking to people who use services, colleagues, elected members and a broad range of stakeholders.
Our Positive Choices programme, is a peer led advocacy group of people who use services, run by someone who himself has a physical and learning difficulty. They help us design and deliver new and existing services. Mette is a strong advocate of Co-Production underlying all the work at Surrey Choices. We have around 20% of our staff team who have disabilities themselves sending a positive message of the contribution of disabled people as care givers not just receivers of care.
What makes your nomination different?
Surrey Choices has been transformed by her, from what was seen as old-fashioned council service provider, to a modern relevant organisation. The teams have been encouraged to work collaboratively to identify gaps in provision, providing innovative solutions in a responsive way, (using the teckel exemption to maximise the services we can offer) Mette also sits on the board of the National Care Forum and tirelessly campaigns for fairness and equality in the sector. Mette has also been shown as a great person to work alongside. One comment received was from a senior manager who faced a difficult pregnancy and then a return to work which had impacted on her confidence. “Mette supported me through my maternity leave by keeping me connected to work appropriately, helping me to return to work in my Senior Role easily and allowing me to continue with my career development with no prejudice as a working mum.” This is the sort of attitude which encourages loyalty and productivity, but also demonstrates her approach in the way she treats both colleagues and customers. The last few years have been challenging for a leader, COVID, unprecedented efficiency savings, increasing demands to do more for less and complexity of referrals, alongside a staffing crisis for recruitment (particularly bad in an area of high employment like Surrey) with many experienced staff leaving the sector. It has not been and is still not easy, but the organisations continues to innovate, win new business, find new customers and get compliments whilst meeting all the financial efficiencies and making a profit.
What has been the impact on the staff and the service itself?
Confidential staff surveys are undertaken each year and this gives us an honest appraisal of how staff are feeling as we get an 82% response rate (encouraged by a donation to our charity of the year!). It is now a safe service 100% of staff said they would report anything inappropriate and know how. Its also a great place to work with 97% stating that they were proud to work for Surrey Choices. 97% also said they could put forward ideas to improve how we do things with the same number knowing they regularly evaluate how we can deliver our services better. Overall, the survey showed positive impact of the changes with the lowest scores for comparative pay, something unfortunately affecting the whole social care sector. Mette has also introduced a strong learning culture into the organisation, 94%of staff said they feel they receive the right training for their job role. In 2021 Surrey Choices won the National Employer of disabled people reflecting the environment we have created to support our disabled colleagues. This includes training over 20 Mental Health first aiders who offer peer support. With Mette’s support the organisation has also addressed some long term issues around performance and sickness.
There is now a culture of celebrating good news stories both on social media and internally with inclusive awards ceremonies for both colleagues and people we support. Compliments are high from people we support; their families and other professionals.
Each person we support has their own personalised support programme from those more able looking for work to those who have more complex behaviours. We are always looking at quality with every service having the scrutiny of our inhouse quality team to help them work towards continuous improvement. Including external satisfaction surveys of all services at least annually. Since its inception in July 2019 Surrey Choices new Positive Behaviour Support network is making a real difference to the lives of people we support. The internal PBS network has now grown, with 3 PBS PROACT-SCIPr-UK qualified coaches/trainers and 21 PBS leads across all operational teams (community choices, Employability, Shared Lives, and short breaks services). The role is undertaken in addition to core duties by staff with a passion to help people live their best lives. PBS training is mandatory for all operational staff with most attending a 2-day course.
Surrey Choices had a reputation of services for older people, but our Preparing for adulthood range of services have gained us many new customers aged 16-24. This includes an innovative employment pathway ranging from an intervention for young people not engaged in any activities due to anxiety or mental health, to full 5 day a week provision for young people who otherwise would have been in expensive out of county residential education but who now learn independence and work skills close to home. This has given the commissioners confidence to award us the home to school transport contract with younger teenagers from 11 – 24 from Sept 2022.
What evidence do you have to support the nomination?
A good leader impact on all areas of the business. Mette has made herself accessible to everyone in the organisation and actively listens to their comments and feedback. The customer survey demonstrates colleagues’ views and our compliments show what an impact our services are having. During a period of transformation, you would expect a large number of complaints whilst everyone adapts, whilst of course there have been concerns, these are few and freely aired.
From a senior Manager “Mette is a positive role model to me and others across the whole of Surrey Choices. She respects and appreciates every staff member by listening, understanding, and taking on board what is said. She motivates us all by praising and showing her appreciated but advising and supporting when something does not go to plan. Her strategic direction has brought everyone together as a team and Surrey Choices has developed and changed for the better under her leadership. On a personal level I have found Mette to me a supportive and encouraging manager and always have been given the opportunity to be creative and develop in my career whilst being steered in the right direction. Mette’s calm and collective leadership helps us all to make the right choices in a sensible and thought-out way. If Mette continues to lead in this way, then all the team will continue to thrive.”
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