An Interview with Jo Rowe

We interviewed our CEO, Jo Rowe recently to ask her some questions about Presbyterian Support Otago, the COVID crisis and life in general.

Thinking about how COVID-19 has affected our community and Presbyterian Support as an organisation, how would you say that PSO has weathered the storm?

We were very determined to keep supporting all our clients and residents throughout each Alert Level. We had to adapt quickly to each stage and all our staff, many of whom were classified essential during the lockdown, have been amazingly resilient in difficult circumstances. We did miss our volunteers very much though, and we are very pleased to see them returning now.

During the lockdown, we used social media and other channels to promote the availability of our Family Works Foodbank and to fundraise to keep it full. This meant our communities knew we were still providing services and reaching out to them.

We are incredibly grateful to all those who supported our Foodbank campaign, and I would like to warmly welcome our many new supporters who donated over this time.

As well, our Family Works staff were able to offer appointments over the phone and via Zoom in a safe way for those in need.

In our eight Enliven care homes across Otago, staff went above and beyond in their work, to care in a very safe way for our residents. Our priority has been to ensure the safety of our staff and residents and to err on the side of caution, keeping the lockdown of our care homes going as long as necessary to keep residents safe was very important.

You’ve been at the helm of PSO since Sept 2019 – what does a “normal” day look like for you?

During the week I meet regularly with our senior leadership team and have one on one meetings with our Enliven and Family Works directors and with the Board Chairman.  My day begins at 5.30am with a bit of chaos - a run with my dog, getting ready for work, preparing children and getting them in the car! I’ll arrive at work around 8.25am and clear my emails.

I make time each day to go and speak to people to ensure I keep in touch with what is happening for service providers across our organisation.   It is really important to me to hear the voice of the people who are the face of PSO.    A lot of the work I do is quite reactive, but I also have “blue space” time – which is designated time to think about the big picture and the vision for our organisation.

What do you see as Presbyterian Support Otago’s three biggest challenges, and how do you see PSO’s role in Otago?

I see our top three top challenges as:

  • Having the right funding in the right places to do the right jobs
  • Building our public profile so that we are front of mind when people in our communities think about charitable organisations and providers of care
  • A significant part of our operations and the way they are funded are tethered to political decision-making processes, which can create difficulties.  An example of this is that even at this late stage in the year we are not aware of what government funding levels for aged care will be in the coming year.

Another very important goal for us is achieving the living wage and having pay parity for our social workers and registered nurses.  This is a strategic area of focus for me.

Presbyterian Support Otago’s role, as one of the region's largest employers, is at the forefront of providing care for vulnerable and underprivileged people in our region. We work across the whole community - from young children through to older people in Aged Residential Care (ARC). 

Does PSO only help people who have a religious affiliation?

Our provision of help and support comes from a long and proud history, which started with identifying need and creating the services to meet that need. We began in 1906 with the establishment of children’s homes and then moved into care for older people as well, to meet a need in that field. But we don’t limit our help to those under the faith umbrella – our mission is to serve all those in need.