Orkney Islands Council is proud of its workforce – many of whom will be your friends, neighbours or relatives - with over a quarter of Orkney’s working population employed with the local authority.
A closer look at some of our 2,700 staff has revealed a treasure trove of community-spirited and selfless individuals.
Despite only scratching the surface, we have already found many Council staff who are giving their time freely and willingly to benefit others. Those who are – outwith their local authority jobs – helping others to lead better and safer lives, improving the communities we all live in.
They don’t just ensure that vital services continue to operate – they also go the extra mile through volunteering or charitable work at home and away.
We want to share some of their stories with you.
In her day job, Pat Robinson can be found number crunching as Chief Finance Officer with Orkney Health and Care – a formal partnership arrangement between OIC and NHS Orkney.
But in her personal life, numbers were to become much more significant for a very different reason.
Eloise was just a tiny 1lb 15 ½ ounces when she was born at 24 weeks and 4 days on May 15, 2015 – and only given a 50/50 chance of survival. They are numbers that Pat and husband Gareth will never forget.
Eloise is now a larger than life 6-year-old who rules the family roost - but her very premature arrival into the world has been life changing.
Just days before they were due to return to Orkney, after a staggering 142 days at the neo natal unit in Aberdeen hospital, Pat took Eloise for her newborn screening test at five months old – something she thought would be nothing more than a “tick-box exercise”.
Pat was given the diagnosis that Eloise had a profound hearing loss – in simple terms, she was deaf.
After further tests, Eloise was deemed a suitable candidate for cochlear implants and in February 2017 underwent surgery to fit her with the “magic” hearing device that was switched on in March 2017. Eloise now has implants that sit behind her ears, transmitting sound waves to her brain to enable her to hear.
“This was truly amazing,” Pat said. “However, I think people think that she will have no issues now. This is why we want to educate people that she can’t hear like us and the processors do amplify everything which can be very overwhelming. Without her equipment on she is 100 per cent deaf.”
Intensive therapy followed to help her discover and process the world of sound and Eloise continues to learn new words. The family use sign supported English, which has been a huge help in alleviating some of Eloise’s frustrations around communication.
Pat and Gareth were keen to reach out to others, so they founded the Orkney Deaf Children’s Society in 2017 to ensure that there was local support for all of the county’s deaf children and those with hearing loss.
The charity is affiliated to the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and supports children of all ages in the county and their families.
Pat said: “When you have a deaf child meeting other parents of deaf children is vital so that you feel less alone and have someone to share your experiences with that really understands. We hope the local group is making a difference for deaf families in Orkney.”
Although the charity has been quiet this year due to COVID-19, it is hoped that they will be able to start thinking again about new fundraisers and events soon.
To date they have enjoyed many special days out – often thanks to the generosity of others.
“We visited the Alpaca Farm thanks to a kind donation by the Forkin family, enjoyed the climbing wall and inflatables at the Picky Centre, a day trip to Hoy, visiting the Longhope Lifeboat Museum, getting a tour of the lifeboat, and a chance to meet the crew, experienced an open water dive with Scapa Scuba. We were invited by the Highland Deaf Children’s Society to join them at Landmark Forest Adventure Park, outside Inverness. A group of us families headed off to link with the Grampian Deaf Children’s Society for an activity weekend at Nethybridge which enabled us to meet more families and widen the support network.”
Pat continued: “Once children/young people take off their hearing aids or implants they have little or no hearing which can make communication more difficult meaning it can be harder to attend events. That’s why it is so beneficial to go on these group events as the instructors are experienced and take all needs into account.”
The charity has also hosted the Santa Fun Run when hundreds of folk turned out in support.
The ODCS purchased and circulated a book, Jake and Jasmine to the Rescue, around all schools in Orkney – it’s a fun story to help raise awareness of the challenges that deaf children face.
The charity has also held local events so as the Orkney community could come along and find out more about deaf awareness. They linked in with NDCS who took the listening bus to Orkney so as everyone could see types of equipment and ask questions from the team.
Pat said: “Deafness can affect any one of us or our loved ones at any time so to have a better understanding can alleviate some of those fears.”
The Robinsons have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of the public after setting up the charity.
“We are so touched by the things that people have done for us and the support that we receive for running the charity. We would like to thank everyone from individuals to local groups/clubs and organisations who have supported us in any way at all.
“Your fantastic contributions have enabled ODCS to support our families here in Orkney.”
Pat would be the first to admit living with a deaf child can be incredibly frustrating at times, and there are things you have to take into consideration that is taken for granted with a hearing child. However, Eloise is a true inspiration and doesn’t let deafness become a barrier.
Pat exudes the same positive attitude within her day job.
The joined up working approach between the OIC and NHS Orkney saw the creation of the Integration Joint Board which oversees the work of adult health and social care services, children and criminal justice social work functions under the Orkney Health and Care banner.
The Integration Joint Board became operational in 2016 and has a joint budget of just under £55 million annually.
As the Chief Finance Officer, Pat and the finance teams at both organisations face something of a mountainous financial challenge, with a significant savings target of £4.2 million to be achieved from the partnership by the end of 2022/23.
“Services require to be transformed to help deliver recurring savings while also continuing to deliver improvements in the Governments national health and well-being outcomes.
“In addition to this we are obviously now facing high financial and economic impacts of COVID-19 which is an uncertainty we have little control over. It is not going to be easy, but I’m always up for a challenge!”