Alex, our chair of trustees, talks about her role and hopes for the future of Field Lane
Pictured above: (left to right) Alex MacDonald with Anthony Harding at our thank you reception for donors, held at Lambeth Palace, November 2019
How long have you been a trustee for Field Lane (FL); what is your main role?
I joined Field Lane as a trustee in 2014 and became the chair in 2016. I am on the Finance and General Purpose Committee. I chair the board meetings and ensure that we, as trustees, carry out good governance and support the senior management team and staff. We have a responsibility to our vulnerable clients and their families, to provide them with an excellent service and to ensure that our charity is financially sound. As chair, I have also instigated trustee visits to our projects, which has been successful from all points of view. They give staff and clients at each project the opportunity to give trustees feedback and for us to show our appreciation and keep in touch with what is happening daily across the projects. It is important that both staff and clients feel at ease with the trustees and are confident that we understand their needs and will always have their best interests at heart.
Why did you choose FL as the charity you wanted to get involved with?
I was working as the community liaison manager for a property developer and director of the chairman’s charity, Homeless Child, and meeting with many community groups and charities. My role involved providing funding and opportunities to organisations working with people who were disadvantaged and vulnerable. Through this role I came to understand the benefits of supporting small charities who were delivering community-based services. This led me to Field Lane. I liked the charity’s ethos and its Christian heritage. I visited a few projects prior to joining and was impressed with what I saw. Each project was finding ways to give clients real opportunities to become more independent and lead fulfilling lives, whether working with vulnerable young women in Andrew Provan House or adults with learning difficulties in our supported-living projects.
What has surprised you most about working with FL?
The absolute dedication of our staff, particularly this year. They have gone way beyond the call of duty in showing kindness and care to help to our clients through lockdown, which, for many, has been extremely difficult to cope with.
I’m often amazed at how well our clients thrive and do succeed in finding their full potential. So many come to us with seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome but through the dedication of the teams of staff in every project the clients grow in confidence and develop life skills to enable them to go on and lead happy, more independent lives. They are supported by our staff on both a practical and emotional level; by the staff providing training, support, nursing, and pastoral care and also by providing love, encouragement, and fun. Even in lockdown, in addition to keeping all our clients safe and well, the staff made sure clients were kept occupied and continued to learn new skills. They found new and creative ways to deliver the ongoing support and stimulation our clients need.
What do you wish other people knew about FL?
Although we are a relatively small charity, we provide an excellent service to our all our clients in small, successful projects. Field Lane punches above its weight and has proved that small, well-run organisations can make a huge contribution to social care in the community. With the support of more local authorities, we could expand to other areas of the country and fill a gap in the social care sector. Our success stories speak for themselves; we need to do better at telling people about what we do, and the extraordinary results achieved for our vulnerable clients.
What is your hope for the future of the FL, especially after covid-19?
My biggest hope for the future is that we get back to some sort of normal way of living so that our clients can resume going out and doing everyday things, such as: visit the shops; go to clubs; have trips out; go on holiday – all these activities are so important for their wellbeing. It’s difficult to know when all this will be possible again. In the meantime, we have to find new and creative ways of stimulating our clients. That stimulation and learning is vital if we are to help them achieve their potential. Despite the current situation, I would like us to continue to grow steadily, opening new projects and helping more vulnerable adults.
For our staff, I wish to see them develop their skills and take on more responsibility, supported fully by the trustees and senior management team. The staff have shown such dedication, we owe them all a huge debt of thanks for their tireless efforts not just during the pandemic, but beyond. In return, we must make sure that Field Lane remains a robust and financially stable organisation, one that is able to continue delivering excellent social care services for years to come.
We are lucky to have an enthusiastic board of trustees, all of whom give their time freely. They are totally committed to Field Lane and I thank them for their support and commitment in ensuring that we do the best for our clients and staff.