Chantal Hughes, CEO introduces the ‘HT Heroes’

Those that know me will appreciate I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s Eve. It’s the concept my daughter refers to as ‘organised fun’ that bothers me. I do remember though on the 1st January thinking how easy 2020 is to say which I thought was a bonus to get through the dreaded first month. It rolls off the tongue. The definition of ‘roll off the tongue’ is to be very easy or enjoyable to say. In marketing and branding we want something that rolls off the tongue so that people will remember it. Globally we will never forget 2020. I don’t believe there is a disease more heart wrenching and cruel than Covid-19. It takes no prisoners, robbing us of those we love from our children, parents, grandparents and friends with no single opportunity to have one last human touch or to celebrate their life in a shared memorial service. The coronavirus will be forever written into our history and we will share stories of bravery, courage, loss, resilience, despair, powerlessness and much more. It’s my first and hopefully last experience of a virtual funeral service.

I now realise that the word pandemic written on a business contingency plan can create quite a stir when it actually happens. Our risk register was starting to prioritise cyber security, until like a steam train along came Covid-19. If that doesn’t warrant grit, tenacity determination, and a sense of humour (especially when colleagues cut their own hair) then nothing does. Talk about rally the troops. If I had to go on the frontline I would want the army of HT Heroes behind me. It may sound glib, but it’s not intended as their efforts to transition our service has no bounds.

As an organisation working with perpetrators and victims of domestic/sexual abuse, and in criminal justice, we immediately were concerned with the announcement of lockdown. Domestic abuse mixed with Covid-19 is now referred to as a double pandemic which of course it is. We’re not in the business of providing tea and sympathy to individuals involved in criminal activity or behaving abusively to their loved ones, rather we hold them to account. However, we can do so and still manage to build positive relationships. This involves robust assessment, challenge, case management and review, all carried out face to face.

We didn’t want removal of face to face work to create barriers for engagement and we particularly wanted to ensure that referral pathways to agencies and individuals remained open. Anyone who has worked in the voluntary sector will know a job description represents but a tiny part of what we actually do and nothing has tested this more than Covid-19. The team have worked tirelessly, stepping outside of their roles on a daily basis, supporting clients, each other and all whilst managing their unique home circumstances.

These are fearful times, with concerns for loved ones, children being home schooled, reduced incomes, lack of human contact and isolation. We are living these unique circumstances, drawing on our own capacity to get through and juggle all the plates. I can be the world’s worst for sending off emails requesting impact data to support bids, whilst staff are making herculean efforts to respond in real time and manage their other tasks. I can’t imagine how many eye rolls my emails must generate. Managers are supporting expanding teams and increasing demands from every direction. The frontline practitioners are attending virtual child protection meetings where children are literally being removed from parents at the same time their own are pulling on their sleeves for more chocolate to get through home schooling. I can’t imagine how tough that must be.

Coronavirus has woken us all up to the miracle that is our NHS service, of which there is no doubt. I’ve always known how privileged I am to work alongside such a passionate and committed team, but it’s woken me up to what true HT Heroes they all are. They really are not in this for the glory, but to make a difference to the many clients that we work with on a daily basis. I have ‘politely requested’ that we bring them into the spotlight as a way of acknowledging all that they do as HT Heroes. Whether behind the scenes or front of house I salute and am humbled by their efforts to ensure we continue to support those in need.

Chantal Hughes, CEO


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