Today we meet Timothy Thornsby, one of our trustees and vice-chair of the board
Pictured: Timothy at last year's thank you reception for donors and supporters, in Lambeth Palace
How long have you been a trustee for Field Lane (FL) and what is your main?
I have been a Trustee for six years. I am vice-chair of the board, deputising for the chair as necessary. I also sit on the finance and general purposes committee, which has a scrutiny role examining our finances in detail and reporting to the main board.
Why did you choose FL as the charity you wanted to get involved with?
I used to be the CEO of the National Lottery Charities Commission (now the Big Lottery Fund) and there we were concerned to reach out to all those at a disadvantage – mentally, physically or financially. When I retired, I wanted to find a board appointment working in a similar area, where I could use my experience and knowledge. When I came across Field Lane, it seemed to be a perfect fit. I was impressed by the charity’s fantastic history, going back to the Ragged School and its association with Lord Shaftesbury and Charles Dickens. But more than this, I was impressed by the very human touch in the way Field Lane delivers services. The whole approach is very caring and thoughtful. I was delighted to be offered a trustee role.
What has surprised you most about working with FL?
The sheer complexity of our operations was perhaps the thing that surprised me most. It is not a simple business by any means. We have to deal with many different and complicated issues involving an array of agencies, organisations and individuals. These range from working with local authorities, managing property to discussing what are often emotional decisions with our clients’ families. Throughout all of this I’m incredibly impressed by our care managers, who have individual care plans for every single client. These are tailored to each client’s abilities and aspirations. A particular example that struck me was meeting a client who had a guitar and she told me that she was going to ‘cut a disc’ for Christmas. I thought it was more a dream than a reality. Then I met her music teacher, who told me this client had come on leaps and bounds and she was going to take her into her studio so that she could indeed record a disc of her guitar playing. Amazing!
What do you wish other people knew about FL?
What strikes you is the sheer enthusiasm and professionalism of all our staff. They have a great capacity and passion in the concern and care of their clients. Is very apparent when you visit any of our projects. Although in the background, our Christian faith is not only part of our heritage, it is very much a part of our charity’s DNA. It impacts on everything we do and the way we deliver our services, believing that everyone has the right to be able to live as fulfilling a life as possible.
What is your hope for the future of the FL, its clients and its staff?
I want to see us continue to grow in a way that is sustainable, so we can offer opportunities to more clients to reach their potential, and to be an exemplary employer. I’ve had experience of talking to clients’ families when they’ve told me the difference it’s made to their lives and that of their children to have found a place in a Field Lane project. One father told me that his child was always worried about returning to the residential home where they were previously living. But now at Field Lane, they look forward to returning to the project after visits to stay with their parents. Such stories make it all so worthwhile and give us the motivation to keep growing.
How has the Coronavirus crisis impacted on FL’s work?
We’ve taken a very thorough approach to managing the crisis. We took steps early on to minimise risks and contain the potential spread of the virus. As well as taking more hygiene precautions and stopping visits to and from the projects, we’ve kept a very close eye on our clients and staff. Ensuring their safety, health and wellbeing has been our priority. We’ve all had to find different ways of working and be more creative in how we manage everything. Our teams of staff have been magnificent. Through their diligence and dedication, we have kept the virus at bay. With their help and support, our clients are continuing to live as fulfilling a life as possible in very difficult circumstances.