CrossReach applauded for 'tireless' work to support thousands of people during pandemic

CrossReach has been on the "frontline" of the Church of Scotland's response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has made a positive difference to thousands of people.

Board convener, Rev Thom Riddell, said staff and volunteers "tirelessly and selflessly " offered practical and emotional help in many different ways during a challenging time.

CrossReach is one of the largest and most diverse voluntary sector social care organisations in Scotland and it has taken "significant effort" to maintain the wide range of cradle to the grave services operated.

Rev Thom Riddell
Rev Thom Riddell

Mr Riddell told the General Assembly that the pandemic has tested the organisation in a number of ways and the financial consequences will continue to be felt for some time.

"We had to comply with stringent public health guidance which seemed to change daily," he said.

"We had to adapt how we delivered some of our services, making use of information technology and social media.

"Our amazing staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly and selflessly to ensure that, wherever possible, those who rely on our services have remained connected to those important to them, have been protected from the worst effects of the virus, and have felt loved."

Fragile social care system

The virus impacted worst on older people across the UK and sadly residents of care homes died including those run by CrossReach.

Mr Riddell said the pandemic exposed the cracks in an already fragile social care system.

He added that people who are supported or those who support them have not been recognised for their immense value to society.

Mr Riddell said: "It has taken a toll on CrossReach in a number of ways and we will need time to recover so that our services, and those involved in them, can flourish and be there for people who will need them in the future."

The report to the General Assembly provided a sense of the impact on staff.

It stated: "For those working in face to face services, particularly where there had been high levels of infection amongst staff and service users, there were reports of whole staff groups experiencing trauma and exhaustion.

"Increased insurance costs, enhanced sickness benefit arrangements and requirements for clinical waste and additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning have all added to the costs of continuing to run services, while reduced occupancy in some areas has significantly reduced income."

Drug deaths

CrossReach employs nearly 1,700 people and provide services for people suffering from substance misuse in Inverness, Glasgow, Stornoway, Edinburgh and Dundee.

The General Assembly expressed "alarm" at Scotland's drug deaths rate which is higher per capita than any other European country.

A total of 1,264 people died in 2019 in comparison to 1,187 the previous year, an increase of 6%.

The latest figures are the highest number since records began in 1996, according to the National Records of Scotland.

Nearly 7 in 10 were male, over two thirds were aged 35 – 54 and heroin and morphine were implicated in more deaths than in any previous year, and over half of the total.

The General Assembly instructed CrossReach to work in collaboration with the Faith Impact Forum to hold the Scottish Government to account on its promise to reduce drug deaths and to ensure that the appropriate resources are put in place.

Looked after children

CrossReach runs services for looked after children in multiple locations across Scotland including a school in Erskine in Renfrewshire.

Commissioners endorsed the efforts being made by the charity to keep ‘The Promise' which has been made to children who have experience of the care system.

It is responsible for driving the work of change demanded by the findings of the Independent Care Review.

It works with all kinds of organisations to support shifts in policy, practice and culture

The General Assembly agreed that presbyteries, congregations and individuals should join CrossReach in commending the initiative and doing what they can to combat the discrimination and stigma which exists within the current children's care system.