Our Institute has suddenly been faced with challenges variously described as massive, unprecedented and high impact. I am writing to let you know how CIEEM has been responding to this challenge.
First of all, however, I’d like to say that CIEEM’s Governing Board and Secretariat staff sincerely hope that our members, your loved ones and your colleagues are staying safe and well. Inevitably, all of you will have already been impacted, by the outbreak of COVID-19, some more seriously than others, and our thoughts are with you at this time. We are also very aware of the impact on your businesses of the social distancing, isolation and ‘lockdown’ measures recently imposed, whatever part of the sector in which you are working.
Earlier this week, I made some telephone calls to a number of our members to see how they were being affected. Without exception, I was hugely impressed, although not surprised, by their professionalism, expertise and determination in these difficult times. What came through clearly from these conversations was the need for clarity about what members could and could not do, as well as what support would be available to them from the UK and Irish governments. As soon as possible after the scale of the pandemic became clear, we have been providing regular updates through our website, giving as much information and guidance as possible, using the information available to us. In addition, we have been in regular dialogue with key contacts in the statutory nature conservation organisations, local planning authorities and NGOs in order to gain more information and to collaborate on the production of best practice guidance. We added our voice to those lobbying for financial support for our self-employed members, and will continue to push for support for other categories of members whose needs have yet to be satisfactorily met.
Of course, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has also impacted on CIEEM’s operations. Once we had relocated the Secretariat’s entire operation to the homes of staff, the decision was taken to cancel all field and classroom-based training courses and upcoming conferences with immediate effect. Since then, staff have been working hard to develop new ways of delivering professional development opportunities and an expanded programme of webinars is currently being compiled. Later this month, the conference planned for Ireland will be the first that we will deliver entirely online and we look forward to both the challenges and the learning opportunities this brings. Thank you to the conference presenters who have agreed to adapt their contributions in order to help us to deliver a successful conference. Please support this event.
At an extraordinary meeting of CIEEM’s Governing Board earlier this week, Board members agreed to bring forward plans to provide additional support to members in the form of free access to a range of services including confidential well-being advice and counselling services and practical advice on topics such as debt management, stress management, and mental health. We are also adapting the recently launched mentoring platform so it can offer you the opportunity to find a fellow member in a similar situation, in order that you can exchange ideas and offer mutual support at this difficult time. All members will be provided with more details about how to access these and other tangible benefits in the next few days. The Secretariat staff are working on alternative ways in which we can provide support, but there may be others too, so we will be sending a short survey to all members next week to find out what issues you are facing and how else we might be able to support you. I would encourage you to complete this survey. On a more positive note, do let us know, too, where you see opportunities for us to benefit from this crisis.
Please look out for and make the most of CIEEM’s conferences, online training, respond to survey requests and other CIEEM initiatives, and, importantly, do stay in touch. We remain firmly committed to helping members both at this time and in the face of those challenges that are still to come.
Together, we’ll survive this crisis and come out wiser and stronger.
Prof. Max Wade CEcol CEnv FCIEEM