Susan McBride, PBNI Business Support Manager, talking about how her team is supporting frontline staff deliver essential services during COVID 19

A Day in the Life – Delivering Support to Probation Staff during COVID-19

My name is Susan McBride and I am a Business Support Manager, in Probation’s Down & Ards team.  I also cover HMP Maghaberry, Hydebank Wood College and Belfast Community Service teams.

The role of a Business Support Manager in probation, involves supporting all staff, whether that be help with systems, technical equipment, or addressing any Health & Safety issues that may arise.  The team of Business Support Managers across probation also manage the administrative staff and their functions. We provide the Area Managers with help, support and information in relation to all aspects of Service User work.  The office premises also fall within our remit. Much of our work recently has been focused on preparing for the recovery process and ensuring offices are safe for staff return to the workplace.

Lockdown for me and many others, was a shock to the system.  Anyone who really knows me is very aware I am a creature of habit – into the office early and quite often out late, so working continuously from home was totally alien to me and to be honest, the first couple of weeks I found quite challenging as did many of my colleagues.

Anyway, here we are 11 weeks in and to be honest it has become a lot easier. Every member of staff has had to rethink about their day-to-day duties while working remotely.  In many instances face-to-face contact has been replaced by telephone calls and the majority of us now have laptops, which is fantastic and has ensured the core work is being completed.

PBNI also introduced a new electronic case management system over the last number of weeks.   Due to remote working, the training for the new system had to be developed in a completely different way.  The ECMS team were quick to organise training videos and were on hand to offer help and support as we made the changes to the systems.   As a result the implementation of this much needed new system was a success.

A new experience for me was interviewing prospective staff by Webex, something that I admit I did have doubts about. However it actually turned out to be a much more pleasant and relaxed experience than I had anticipated.   I gave positive feedback to the Human Resources team regarding this and suggested it may be something we consider for the future even when ‘normal’ (whatever that will look like) resumes.

No one could have imagined this time last year that the world would be in this situation – we certainly are in unprecedented times.

I do hope that over the next couple of weeks we will start to see some sort of normality back into the workplace however most likely it will be a long time before things go back to what they were like before lockdown – I think we are very fortunate regarding our working environment – many people now face the future unemployed.

I very much believe that there always is a reason when things happen so I personally will hold onto that going into the next few months.