Maura Jackson has been the CEO of Backup North West since March 2012. As well as Backup being up for two awards this year, Maura is also up for an individual award – Leader of the Year.

It’s a fantastic achievement, and we invited her to share her story before the Investors in People Awards on the 23rd of November.

Can you give us a brief description of you and why/how you’re making work better?

Backup is a registered charity, a service for young people aged 16-25 who are homeless. Backup offers great standard accommodation plus a variety of support packages to meet all levels of needs and issues. 

The aim is to ensure young people are not homeless and whilst in our temporary accommodation are equipped with skills and knowledge for independent living.

We have a staff team of 67 people. Plus 20 more sessional workers and 18 volunteers. We believe that to deliver exceptional services to young people and make a lasting difference in their lives, we have to recruit exceptional staff and look after them.

In my time at Backup, I have developed:

·  Where possible; 

I single-handedly wrote and secured two successful bids for contracts in 2012 and 2019, securing the charity’s financial position and securing jobs and services. I bring in or secure 90% of the total income every year.

I try to include everyone and make work fun from time to time by making music videos, developing two charity calendars with staff dressing up, seeking input in projects for young people or neighbourhoods (family fun days and charity events for other charities, not us). 

Our annual general meetings are not typical of the sector, always ending with singing and making fun of me; light-hearted stuff.

Why did you enter The Investors in People Awards 2021?

Backup gained GOLD accreditation in 2020 for the third time (2014 and 2017). This is worth celebrating by itself. But the fact I am a charity CEO but operate as a business with ethics and values makes me proud.

I have worked hard to develop a culture based on respect and kindness. Promote customer focus, move away from services people should be grateful for, and implement new attitudes that young homeless people deserve the very best we can offer.   

Since joining in 2012, I have:

I entered the organisation for two categories and myself for one.

Backup demonstrates best practices as a provider and employer, and it is me that has developed that over the last nine years and now doing it with the help of a strong management team.  

I have been authentic in everything I have done here and tried to do the right thing for my colleagues and young people.

Being a finalist also shows stakeholders that I am a credible, trustworthy leader with integrity. That’s good for Backup and improves perceptions across the charitable sector. It’s good for staff morale and staff retention.  

However, the application went in after the pandemic, three lockdowns and still under pressure to deliver effective services to young people with multiple support needs. 

I lead the organisation safely through that, responsible for colleagues’ welfare and safety and young people.

We experienced our first death of a service user on the scheme in 29 years in June 2020 due to deteriorating mental health; he hung himself, aged 19. 

The aftermath, staff care plans, statutory paperwork and reviews, continued service delivery, looking after young people too was something I had to “manage” immediately and for weeks and months after. 

That was difficult for my colleagues that worked with him for the previous year and dealt with his suicide.

What I do has a real human impact.

Are there any goals or challenges you hope an award will help you achieve or solve?

What does being shortlisted mean to you? (Feel free to include stories of people running around the office, crying or calling their parents).

I cried. I was notified of being shortlisted in 3 categories – 2 for the charity and 1 for me.

I am so grateful because I have led the organisation through significant growth and change, all for the benefit of young people. The last 18 months have been horrific. To be recognised as a non-specific industry leader is incredible.

In the last two years, my situation has turned upside down too. Following a physical assault on my 1-year-old grandson in November 2019, he and his sister were temporarily placed in my care for a child protection investigation. My daughter’s partner had battered him. 

This led to 74 weeks of care, then lockdowns, moving house for additional bedrooms, and a special guardianship order on April 21, putting them permanently in my and my husbands care. They are now 10 and 3. I am 50. 

This wasn’t my vision for my fifties, but my daughter remained loyal to the perpetrator of the assault so the courts wouldn’t allow them to return home.

What would it mean to win?

It would be (as my 3-year-old grandson says) epic.

How does being shortlisted benefit your customers?

It supports sustainability and added value in future applications for contracts and funding.

It reassures stakeholders that the organisation is credible, cares about colleagues, delivers quality and highly skilled staff.

How would you use being the recipient of this award to influence others?

I’d just use it to my advantage to do a great job and continue making a difference and hopefully inspiring others to do the same.

What can we expect to see from you in the next 12 months? (And beyond!)

1. Working toward the goals of the charity’s new business plan (charity outcomes in yellow below)

2. Preparing for the tender; March 2023

3. Increased opportunities for public speaking/profile raising

4. Going for IiP platinum in 2023

5. Parenting my grandchildren, helping them to live their best lives !!!

During the next three years (amongst other things), here’s what success will look like:

What advice would you give to anyone applying for The Investors in People Awards 2022?

Do it. Don’t assume someone else is more worthy.

View more of our awards finalist stories on our awards page.

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