Hafan Cymru was formed in 1989 as a Registered Social landlord. The business grew out of an initiative of the Women’s Aid movement in Wales at a time when refuge was the only form of accommodation or support for women living with domestic abuse. The business was and is one of the key leading providers of housing and support services across Wales for women, men and families experiencing violence against women and domestic abuse, and their mission then was to work to prevent abuse and homelessness and to promote the independence of those they supported through a range of individually tailored support interventions. Today, Hafan Cymru is well-established foundation that has grown under the expert supervision of great leaders. Headed by Sian Morgan, CEO of Hafan Cymru, the organization continues to grow and inspire the world with their incredible acts of kindness. This is a short article of how a leader can drive the motion of a lagging organization on the path of rapid success.
Sian Took the Responsibility of Steering the Success
Previously, the business had been run like a cottage industry and it had not moved with the changing landscape, nor had it changed its business model to reflect the move away from ‘grant in aid’ to open and competitive tendering. Somewhere along the way, something broke and there was a disconnect between the leadership’s concept and what staff did with that concept. Complacency had set in, processes and procedures were not followed, a blame culture had evolved, and bullying was evident! When Sian joined the business, she experienced several barriers and blockages from within the business. However, she successfully tackled the cash flow issues with the support of the Head of Finance, who in her opinion had not been allowed previously to implement much needed financial controls in order to ensure there was tight cost management and transparency.
Together they introduced new financial processes and procedures to tighten up the cost expenditure of the business as they were bleeding money. Sian’s next approach was to review the organisational structure and reduce the high overheads that Head Office was carrying. She worked closely with the Board of Management to agree on an organisational structure that would ensure they had the right skills in the right place with the right processes and procedures. Sian involved the trade union to ensure they understood the drivers for change, notified the Welsh Government of the plan that had been developed to help turn the financial situation and met with their Bank to ensure they were on board as they were facing severe cash flow issues and at real risk of going out of business. Thankfully, they now have a business that thinks and behaves commercially, they are winning new lucrative contracts, achieved investors in people standard and received a glowing report from their external auditors and all this was achieved within an 18-month period.
“It was a very challenging 18 months but also exciting and incredibly fulfilling. It has been extremely rewarding to see a business that was almost dead kept going and one that continues to move in the right direction, going from strength to strength. For me ensuring that the business continued and we were able to save jobs has been the ultimate pleasure; when you get to see people realize their jobs are secure, and see them get excited again about the business that they are part of, it is an incredible feeling.”, Sian says.
The Services of Hafan Cymru
Over the past 30 years the business has needed to develop and expand from its original intent in order to respond to the changes in legislation and service needs. This has seen the business growth in terms of employees and contracts and the constitution changing to enable support services to be delivered to men facing domestic abuse. The business now delivers over 60 contracts across Wales providing the much-needed support services to men as well as women and families, providing refuge, safe houses, temporary supporting houses and floating and outreach support. The business has also diversified and is able to deliver employability support to help people prepare themselves for the world of work, this also helps their clients who are ready to move on in life and live independently and they have been building a range of skills in other areas such as mental health, and specialist domestic abuse support.
Two of their very successful projects are outlined below to provide some additional information:
They have been very successful in delivering a ‘Whole School Approach’ to tackling Domestic Abuse by educating schools in Wales about Healthy Relationships via the Spectrum Project. The project is an all-Wales programme funded by the Welsh Government and delivered by experienced teachers in primary and secondary schools. The project provides free, bilingual workshops that are closely linked to the curriculum in Wales and promotes the importance of healthy relationships, whilst raising the awareness of children, young people and adults about the issues of domestic abuse, sexual violence and violence against women. The engaging activities are designed to be thought provoking and promote peer discussion but are not intended to be so emotive as to cause distress. The conclusion of every session provides information for young people on where they can access help and support both inside and outside of school. Spectrum also delivers training for school staff and governors about understanding the impact of domestic abuse on a child and raises awareness by looking at a whole school approach to tackling domestic abuse.
They recently secured additional funding to build on the excellent work of their Men’s Shed Project, which is designed to bring together men across Wales and provide an informal, friendly setting for them to socialise and learn from each other. The project is based on several successful projects from around the world – including the pioneering Australian Men’s Shed Association and the Irish Men’s Sheds Association, who provided support to the Men’s Sheds Cymru to enable us to get the project off the ground. The programme is based on the idea that “men don’t talk face to face – they talk shoulder to shoulder” and helps to provide them with an environment in which they can get together over enjoyable, mutually-agreed activities. The sheds are open to all men, regardless of age, background or ability, and are places where men can share skills and knowledge with others, develop old skills and learn new ones.
The Leader who Transformed the Growth of the Organization
Sian joined Hafan Cymru’s as Chief Executive on 4th January 2016 and is ultimately responsible for all day-to-day management decisions and for implementing the business’s short and long-term plans on behalf of the Board of Management, whilst also acting as a direct liaison between the Board and Management of the Association and employees. She likes to arrive at work earlier than everyone else to give her the peace and quietness that she needs to plan out her day, however, no two days are the same due to the nature of their work and you never know what can happen so 9 times out of 10 her original plan has to change.
Some days Sian has the space to be able to read through legislative documents and respond to consultations, however the majority of her days are usually spent in meetings with partner organisations, holding meetings with her executive team and meeting with staff (which she finds inspiring as she is able check in with specific projects and learn new perspectives). She also needs to prepare regulatory responses, write papers for their Board of Management and attend external meetings and conferences of note.
From the moment she starts working until she leaves the office in the evening she is usually inundated with emails from management, executives, and partner organisations or stakeholders. However, Sian realizes that she is extremely lucky to have an Executive Assistant who manages her diary, reminds her of important phone calls and meetings, supports her in her role as Company Secretary and reminds her where she needs to be and when.
There are times when there are not enough hours in the day, particularly if they have a number of events taking place across Wales, tenders be developed, Board or Committee meetings and the AGM taking place and this can mean juggling a lot of balls in the air at the same time, but luckily Sian thrives on challenges and thoroughly enjoys her role.
If she is travelling, she takes her laptop and smartphone so that she can keep up with her emails and read up on any relevant news across the sector. They have a number of locations across Wales and she tries to visit as many as possible within the year so she meets with their staff and clients and hear first-hand the difference they are making to people’s lives and also the issues their staff are dealing with on a daily basis.
“Our business delivers a much-needed service and I am fortunate to have an excellent team within the business and this is event from the positive feedback we receive from our commissioners and stakeholders alike.”, Sian, shares.
Sian has worked successfully for a variety of Government bodies and private sector organisations during the last 43 years. Her specialism was and is within organisation development/growth and relationship building, having worked for many years in this field with a range of businesses and stakeholders prior to joining Hafan Cymru. “In my spare time my passion is for my grandchildren – 5 of them in total with age ranges from 2 year up to 18 years old – also I enjoy baking and cake decoration, although I am nowhere near the standard you see on ‘Bake Off’!! I live in the beautiful Neath Valley and I am constantly surprised by the beauty of nature and the changing colours that the different seasons bring; living at the bottom of a mountain you see a lot of nature and this allows my grandchildren to see a range of different animals from foxes to snakes, although the latter is not a favourite!”, she adds.
Sian’s Everyday Inspiration
The issue of quality and capacity of service provision as this is linked to the substantial reduction in funding for support services and the continued threat for further reduction in funding. Welsh Government has provided funding to help limit the impact on public services in Wales, however, the administration of welfare benefits is not devolved to Wales and the Welsh Government will not be able to continue to carry the financial costs and will look to absorb costs, which means there will be an effect on these services going forward and it is likely they will face further cuts. They are continually planning and horizon scanning to ensure that they are prepared for future opportunities and potential funding cuts.
Hafan Cymru has an incredible team that works unanimously amidst challenges. “To provide the best possible support and accommodation for the people we work with as they need it the most! I am determined that we will respond to the needs of the people we work with and to continue to drive and implement change throughout the organisation in the best interests of our clients, stakeholders and the many communities we work in across Wales.”, Sian, affirms.
The Future of Hafan Cymru
Hafan Cymru takes pride in their team of motivated employees who believes: The difference we can make in people’s lives through the work we deliver to help them strengthen their resilience and build their self-esteem. Also not forgetting the work we do in promoting and supporting the development of positive relationships!
Through the delivery of their revised Business Plan, which identifies a range of activities the organisation will undertake, they will ensure that they are able to provide the best service to their clients, stakeholders, communities and commissioners. They have identified the three pillars for their work: Growth, Community and Safety. Delivering these, together with robust financial management, Hafan Cymru will be focussed on achieving their new Pledge: “We believe that all individuals, couples and families who require accommodation and support to live well, should experience a service that we would be happy for our own families and friends to access and receive”. Due to the uncertainty of the ongoing impact of the Welfare Reform and ongoing political change (within Wales and the UK) they have built into their planning the need to be agile enough to respond to market and client need. Hafan Cymru will continue to discuss and foster a range of strategic and service delivery Partnerships with others in order to seek out efficiencies and new and improved services and where appropriate to influence the Welsh Government on housing policy, community, and healthy relationships and social care for the benefit of all their clients; the next five years will see them taking important steps on their journey to fulfil their Pledge and Mission.