When the issues at the RNIB Pears Centre emerged, we resolved to do everything we could to make urgent improvements across our organisation. We moved quickly to commission a comprehensive Independent Review of RNIB’s safeguarding arrangements and of our governance of regulated services. By June 2018, we had appointed Hugh Davies QC to lead this Independent Review.
Mr Davies reported directly to the Charity Commission and we cooperated fully with him and his team, providing them with the information they needed promptly so they could complete their review. Following on from this, we commissioned other expert reviews and developed a comprehensive Action Plan, approved by the Charity Commission, incorporating these independent recommendations.
This has been a humbling and sobering experience for RNIB. We are sorry for the failings highlighted by the inquiry. We have made significant changes to RNIB and are continuing to embed improvements to ensure that they can never happen again. There is still a lot to do but we are encouraged by the changes we have made so far and are committed to our improvement journey.
We are entirely dedicated to making sure RNIB is run in a way which actively protects people. Everyone at RNIB has a role to play in safeguarding. We immediately acknowledged that we needed more senior, experienced leadership and, in May 2018, we recruited an Interim Director of Care, Education and Safeguarding who is now part of the permanent executive leadership team.
Under his leadership we have completely overhauled our approach to safeguarding operations:
Designated Safeguarding Leads from across the organisation have been appointed and meet regularly.
The Regulated Services and Safeguarding Committee (RSSC), chaired by an Independent Member, was established in June 2018 to oversee all safeguarding matters.
A new Head of Safeguarding role was appointed in November 2018 and now leads a new central dedicated safeguarding team.
Every RNIB employee completed updated and mandatory safeguarding training between February 2019 and May 2019. All new employees complete the training in their first four weeks.
A new secure system to allow us to report concerns and manage safeguarding cases effectively was launched in June 2019.
A thorough reporting regime has been put in place to ensure that the Executive Leadership Team, RSSC and the Board, as a whole, has effective oversight of safeguarding matters.
A Trustee with specific responsibility for safeguarding has now been appointed, and safeguarding is a standing agenda item for discussion at all Board, Executive Level Team and Team meetings.
Ann Craft Trust was commissioned to carry out an independent safeguarding review, which took place throughout January 2020. It concluded:
“The RNIB are taking the correct actions that will contribute to strong foundations that will improve safeguarding responses and as a result safe practice can be embedded across the organisation over time.”
Over the last 20 months we have substantially strengthened our leadership at Trustee and Executive levels:
Six new Trustees have been appointed to the Board since March 2019. Read about their backgrounds, skills and experience on our website. We have completed a skills audit of our Board and are now recruiting for additional Trustees to further strengthen our Board.
Our new permanent CEO Matt Stringer joined us in May 2019 and we have further strengthened our Executive Leadership Team with the appointment of a new permanent Director of Finance, Director of Digital Transformation, Director of Property and Director of People and Organisational Transformation, Director of Care, Education and Safeguarding and Company Secretary. We have also appointed a new Head of Governance.
We have a new Policy Framework and have reviewed and refreshed key policies and processes including our Professional Code of Behaviour. We have also introduced as new Trustee Code of Conduct.
We have reviewed and tightened our Committee structure to ensure Trustees have appropriate oversight of all our activities. In November 2019 the Board approved recommended changes to its structure to make sure it meets the current needs of the organisation and provide adequate oversight. Terms of reference for all Committees and Steering Groups were reviewed, amended and ratified by the Board of Trustees at its meeting in February 2020 and will be kept under review in line with best practice. We have appointed an independent Chair of our Audit and Risk Committee.
A new Governance, Transformation and Implementation Group (GTIG) has been created, chaired by our new Vice Chair. GTIG has oversight over the effective delivery of transformational governance and business change.
All RNIB regulated services have been inspected by either the Care Quality Commission (CQC) or Ofsted in the past 18 months. They have all either retained their gradings of “Good” or “Outstanding”. Two services (Community Living Service and Gladstone House), have been moved from “Requires Improvement” to “Good”.
In November 2019, we announced our intention to find new providers for our regulated older people’s care homes, our schools and our college. This wasn’t an easy decision to make, but we are confident that it’s the right one. We are making changes in our organisation to help us support many more people with sight loss. We are proud of the excellent work these services have delivered over the decades, but now is the right time for us to hand over to providers that are specialists in these fields.
This programme is progressing well, and our priority now is to work closely with the new providers to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible for staff and customers and these specialist services can continue to be available to those who need them.
Our financial transformation plan has continued to deliver significant benefits since 2018:
We know that we needed to thoroughly modernise our organisation to enable us to be more impactful, responsive to our community and sustainable. Key actions we have delivered include:
Appointing a new Head of Compliance, Risk and Assurance. Under their leadership we completed a “risk refresh exercise” leading to a new Risk Management Framework and Strategic Risk Register.
A more integrated business planning, performance management and budgeting process with greater scrutiny from our Board of Trustees.
Evolving our strategy “See differently” to make sure we are effectively breaking down barriers in society so that blind and partially sighted people can live the life they want to lead. As part of this we launched our new brand identity which encouraged people to “see the person, not the sight loss”.
A renewed focus on people and our culture. In October 2018 we launched our new “behaviours”, designed to bring our values to life and set clear expectations of our colleagues. This was accompanied by the launch of “My Development Cycle” which is a cycle of objective setting, review and staff development designed to drive staff engagement and accountability. Our Diversity and Inclusion strategy was approved in December last year and we have since put resources behind the work through the recruitment of an external accessibility lead and an internal diversity and inclusion manager.
Updating our Customer Feedback/ Complaints to allow for appropriate escalation and greater oversight by the Board of Trustees.
We know that there is still a lot to do and acknowledge the scale and scope of the transformation still required. However, we have made significant progress over the past two years and we are committed to ensuring that the changes we have made are embedded across the whole of RNIB so that we build a better organisation for the future.
Matt Stringer, CEO
Eleanor Southwood, Chair