Spotlight on … our Property
This month we shine the spotlight on our Property function. We talk to Ian Allen and Martyn Morris from our Property team to find out more …
So tell us a little bit about SCRA’s Property function?
It is a statutory duty for SCRA to provide accommodation for Children’s Hearings. We have 33 core properties from Shetland to Stranraer. Some are purely for Children’s Hearings, but most of them provide accommodation for our staff as well. We also have a number of outreach centres which we use on an ad hoc basis to hold Children’s Hearings.
One of the most important things for us, is to ensure our buildings are safe, secure and accessible. Plus we need to ensure all our property is water tight and heated. Our Property team has a helpdesk so we can respond to any repairs or issues. We also manage various contracts which again help keep our buildings safe.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact on our property?
When lockdown happened, we had to decant from our buildings quickly and they were closed for some time. This meant that before staff could return to offices and Hearing centres, we had some important safety checks to carry out, such as ensuring the water was safe. There was a significant effort across the country to ensure we could safely reopen our buildings. Some of our Hearing rooms weren’t large enough to enable the two metre distancing rule, so there was a lot of planning around how Hearing rooms and other spaces could be used including, in a number of cases, use of alternative buildings to ensure face to face Children’s Hearings could go ahead.
Has the pandemic had a longer lasting impact on our property?
Yes, in some Hearing centres, we have made the Hearing rooms larger to allow more space. There was several Hearing centres where we had to knock down walls to make this happen!
We are also looking at making improvements to staff areas. One of the legacies of the pandemic has been more agile working and the introduction of an Agile Working Policy. This has enabled us to introduce agile working office layouts to some of our larger offices to make better use of space. Where agile working layouts have been created no one has their own desk anymore as staff are working in more flexible ways and we want to ensure our property supports that. We’ve introduced more modern office environments to our Kilmarnock and Glasgow buildings, with further work also underway in Hamilton and Stirling. The feedback to the changes has been extremely positive.
What about the Hearing room improvement programme – is that still ongoing?
Absolutely! Since we created the pilot model Hearing room back in 2015, by spring 2023 there will only be a handful of Hearing rooms that haven’t been revamped. That’s 42 rooms in total. The programme initially stemmed from work SCRA’s Participation Group had carried out in consultation with Hearings-experienced young people. In addition, a report by our Modern Apprentices called Fit For Us, also supported the improvements. After the pilot Hearing room in Glasgow was successfully evaluated, we worked with an external design company, along with staff and young people to come up with a portfolio of three different rooms. The rooms all have a fresh modern look with different seating options, small coffee tables (instead of the traditional large meeting table) and play areas for young children. The aim is to create a more welcoming and relaxed atmosphere to help children and young people participate more effectively in their Hearings. The feedback to the programme has been extremely positive.
So what’s next for Property?
Now the Hearing room programme is almost complete, we want to take stock of where we are at and what comes next. We need to upgrade the handful of rooms that are still outstanding, then scope out the next phase. We need to consider are the current designs still modern and contemporary or do we have to look at some fresh options. There’s also been a pilot sensory corner introduced at our Hearing centre in Glenrothes. That is currently being evaluated, but the feedback has been extremely encouraging.
Whatever the next phase involves, we will continue to ensure we provide safe and welcoming spaces for children, young people and their families, for our staff and visitors to our Hearing centres.