By Tom Halpin, Chief Executive of Sacro

SOMETIMES, as the winds of change threaten to blow us off our feet, it is tempting to hunker down, find shelter and wait for the storm to pass. Tempting but impossible.

We might like to press the pause button and take a breath but the world will keep spinning, change will keep happening, and uncertainty will remain the only certainty. To keep our feet while the world turns, we must turn with it.

Scotland is turning too, of course, and organisations delivering health and social care in our communities must turn more than most as austerity bites. Whether our organisations are in the private, public or third sectors, we must continue to turn our faces to the wind, brace ourselves, and move forward.

Good leadership in a time of such change can mean rolling with the punches, adapting to survive and protecting what is most important, to secure the services making Scotland a better, fairer, safer place. How we did things yesterday may no longer guide us tomorrow, but what cannot change is our ability to throw a lifeline to those people who, for whatever reason, find themselves clinging onto the edge of our society.

In the third sector where the competition for funding is ever fiercer, where pressure is mounting to wring every penny of value from every pound, valued colleagues – who have often come from those vulnerable groups we work to support – live with uncertainty, unsure if their job is secure from one contract, one tender, to the next.

Of course, we all want to protect our organisations and secure the jobs of those skilled, trusted colleagues. Ensuring these dedicated, expert professionals know their roles are valued and secure is vital to the future of our organisations but, even more importantly, is crucial if we are serious about creating a healthier, fairer Scotland. That is why those of us leading third sector organisations and those deciding the future shape and funding of our services must rise to meet the challenges of change.

At Sacro, where we provide a range of services to reduce reoffending and make our communities safer, we face the same financial pressures and uncertainty as third sector organisations across Scotland. We discuss our services with funders and policy-makers and detail the benefits to the individuals we support, to their communities, and to taxpayers. We show good outcomes and try to put a value on priceless experience and expertise. We do all that but sometimes that is not enough to win the funding we need.

That is disappointing, frustrating and, for staff and service users, unsettling and stressful, but change happens. We may not like it. We may think it risks vital services and threatens hard-won stability in homes previously wracked by chaos. We may think it is unnecessary but ultimately, we must change too. It would, of course, be easier when battling through a storm to look for shelter but that is not an option for Scotland’s third sector. What we do is too important, helps too many people, to crawl beneath a bush and hope for blue skies tomorrow.

If the third sector is bringing new scrutiny to our services so must our funders. Is there robust, measurable evidence of success? Have lives been improved? Has every pound been well spent? Are these services best delivered in-house by local authorities or by external partners? Who has the best experience, the best expertise, the best chance of making the greatest difference?

We must also take responsibility, however, in these times of flux. While staff struggle to lift their eyes from increasing workloads, we must look forward to a different kind of future, a new way of working. Justified pride in our own organisation’s services, staff and achievements must not preclude new collaborative ways of working. That will mean delivering more services in partnership, pooling resource, sharing expertise, and becoming stronger together. We cannot be afraid of that, even if it means fundamental, far-reaching reform to our organisations.

Many things have changed and will continue to change as we endure this age of austerity but one thing cannot change. Our commitment to the those in need of our help cannot waver. We must continue to work in those homes only ever a few pounds away from financial collapse; help men and women with convictions desperately trying to rebuild a life after prison; and support those families riven by addiction or mental health problems.

What we do matters more than how we do it and what we do is too important to run for cover, today or tomorrow. We cannot hide from change and we cannot hunker down. A wind is blowing and there may be no calm after the storm.