Chris Hamill, our new chair of trustees, talks to us about his expectations and hopes for the future
The pandemic has presented the charity sector with huge challenges - what are the key steps you can take, as chair, to ensure Field Lane emerges from the crisis?
We are very fortunate not to have suffered some of the funding challenges faced by many other charities, because of the pandemic. Our relative financial stability before the crisis hit has been a blessing and enabled us to weather the storm. As chair, I will need to ensure we can maintain that financial equilibrium and follow through on our strategy to grow the charity organically, without overstretching ourselves or risking the solid reputation we have built up in the social care sector. Key to that reputation is the confidence our funding partners and the families of our clients have placed in us to deliver excellent services.
I think there are exciting opportunities and lessons we can take from the pandemic in how we can do things differently, and better, in the future. In many ways, Field Lane is a microcosm of what is happening in the wider world – as people rethink the future and take on board the many new and creative ways we can live and work together. We should be open to opportunities – emerging from the crisis stronger and be more willing to try new approaches.
I will be working with the Board and executive team to take stock of what we’ve achieved over the past year, what lessons we can learn and what new practices we can take forward that will benefit our clients and the staff that care for them.
What are your main priorities for the board in supporting the charity, staff, and clients?
Our priorities remain the same – keeping our clients safe, well cared for and enabled to lead independent and fulfilling lives.
We have a good, strong board of trustees with the right balance of skills and experience. It is part of my role as chair to maintain this and provide support to our chief executive and the executive team in carrying out the charity’s mission. This support extends to the staff, who have done an amazing job over the past year – demonstrating great resilience and adaptability in supporting our clients to cope with the ‘new normal’. For me, this goes to the very heart of the vocational nature of care sector work. It is a profession that is often overlooked and undervalued. As a board, we need to make sure our staff feel valued and for them to know that they have our absolute support.
Our charity is well run and a key priority for the Board is to ensure this continues. We need to keep our focus on our main purpose, which is to enable all our clients to live the best lives they can.
How do you see the next couple of years unfolding, in terms of Field Lane's services and its place in the social care sector?
There is obviously a demand for our services within the regions we operate in. Our strategy is to expand as and when we can, to offer the same service to more adults with learning disabilities and vulnerable families. There may be opportunities to expand further outside of the South East region, as well as to expand organically within the regions we currently serve.
Any growth must not be at the expense of our main purpose. We have built a solid reputation that we need to preserve. It is this that will help us to achieve our ambition to grow and support more vulnerable adults to lead independent and fulfilling lives.
Choosing to become a trustee and then taking on the role of chair is a considerable commitment - why did you decide to do it?
I was truly honoured to be asked to take on the chair role. To be given such a vote of confidence from the outgoing chair and the other board members was a humbling experience and unexpected. Field Lane is a very special charity, with everyone working toward the common goal of giving our clients the best lives they can have. Underpinned by a Christian ethos, the charity lives by its values. Accepting the initial invitation to join the board in 2018 was an easy decision to make – the organisation, its people and its values immediately appealed to me. It is a pleasure to commit my time to the role.
As the chair, I have a direct route to support the chief executive and the executive team and uphold the charity’s reputation in the care sector. I hope my tenure will provide a platform to bring more recognition and attention to the sector in general, which is long overdue.
Across Field Lane our support staff have made such a huge impression on me with their passion, dedication, and the creativity they have shown during the pandemic. We can witness this across the whole care sector, which relies on the strong sense of vocation felt by its employees. I hope I can contribute to Field Lane’s growth and further success in the years to come.